Episode 105 – Hamilton residents and ratepayers association and Albi & the Wolves

This week Ray from the Hamilton residents and ratepayers association joined us to talk about the association, their priorities and how we can get involved if we are equally concerned about Council’s spending of ratepayer money.

We are joined by Chris Dent, from Auckland based band Albi & the Wolves ahead of their gig at Nivara Lounge next week.

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Episode 104 – Chlöe Swarbrick – Green Party MP on mental health and civic participation

In this podcast we are joined by Chlöe Swarbrick from the Green Party of Aotearoa.   She is their spokesperson for Mental Health, Drug Law Reform, Education, Arts and Heritage, Tertiary Education, Small Business, Broadcasting, Youth and Local Government.

I invited her onto the show to talk about her current priorities – which are within drug reform and mental health but also to share ways she thinks we might improve participation in local body politics.  If you don’t have time to listen to the hour long podcast you can skip to the 10 min mark, with the interview lasting approximately 15 minutes. 17798927_453663108302667_3009415273109823992_n.jpg

Chlöe entered politics in 2016, running for the Auckland Mayoralty as a result of not hearing the issues she, and other young people thought were important.  While unsuccessful at the time she undoubtedly helped young people see the relevance of local councils in decisions that effect us day to day.

Listen to the podcast – you’ll also hear songs from local band Looking for Alaska, Auckland’s Albi & the Wolves, Tauranga based Kokomo and local artist Rubita.

Conversations around the water cooler

“She’s in childcare from 7.30-5.30pm … but it’s good for her to be socialising with other babies and it’ll give her a head start for school”.

“What did you get up to over the long weekend?”  “Oh you know, just caught up with jobs around the house.  The cars needed washed, lawns mowed – that sort of thing”.  “True, Never enough hours in the day eh?” “Nah, especially with the commute”.

“40 hour week? Good one, I’m pushing 70 hours trying to meet those deadlines. I’m lucky I can work from home so the Mrs doesn’t have a go at me”.

“What are you doing with your kids over the holidays?”  “Oh god, I don’t even want to think about it, we can’t afford the holiday program this year and I don’t have any leave left”.

“The Board says we have to tighten our belts, so HR will be looking at workloads and restructuring – it’ll mean a loss in jobs…  Don’t panic, we’ll make sure we honour our contractual obligations in the event of redundancy”.

“Are you coming to the gym later?” “Nah, I can’t.  I have to work late to make up for taking time off to take Mum to hospital last week”.

“I had a chat to the Manager about the role they’re advertising” “Oh yeah, what did he say?” “He reckons I can get it but I’ll have to go full time if I want it”. “Yeah, the good jobs are always full time”.

While Labour day is just a day off to most of us, it commemorates normalisation of an 8 hour working day.  The idea is that it would give us a fair work life balance, 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of sleep.  Nice in theory.  It seems we still have a long way to go for fair and progressive employment conditions which reflect society in 2018.  If you had to work on Monday the 22nd, Labour day check out your employer obligations

Small town, no longer home

Small town, no longer home

It’s been nearly 20 years since I left that town with no desire to return.  Last week opportunity, nostalgia and curiosity more than anything else led me back.  Without realising it at the time, the short visit managed to slay a demon of sorts for me as well. Upon reflection I think part of this is because my sense of ‘belonging’ has been well and truly established somewhere else.

When many of us think back to ‘how things once were’ we think of the freedom, innocence and outdoor adventures of living in a small country town.  In this respect this town had the goods and was a great place to be a kid.  We could explore our surroundings without limits.  It was safe.  But as much as we reflect in nostalgia for how great it was, I also remember the hurry to get out.

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Wyndham (population 505) is one of those towns.  It’s the type of town where everyone knows everyone.  Gossip is rife, but by well meaning, salt of the earth people.  It’s conservative Southland.  Little diversity, just white working class New Zealanders going about their life in an unassuming but flavourless way.  The only claim to fame that I can think of for the town is that according to her autobiography, Janet Frame once lived there.

We drive down every street in town (trust me, this didn’t take as long as you’re imagining), most are named after people and places of the Crimean war.  There was no body around.   No kids biking, or even at the playground. I don’t know anyone who lives there any more either.

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I was surprised how many heritage buildings there were for what had always been a small rural town.  That wasn’t something I noticed as a kid.  I was happy to see a handful of houses being restored, like ‘the Doctors house’ and noticed the Catholic church is now a private residence.   There has always been the odd empty shop on the main street, but I was astounded with how many more had joined them – and how many had been demolished.  Another telltale sign that things are quiet is seeing corrugated iron boarding up windows or rotten boards on a main street.  Like in movies.  The post office still grand, still the light pink it has been as long as I’ve known it – has missed out on the lick of paint that would have made it a landmark to be proud of.  I marveled at the main town intersection – which anywhere else would be a roundabout… here… a hodge podge of streets meeting.

I wander down some roads and reserves and reminisce about where I tried my first cigarette (which fortunately was a bad experience), saw a stash of playboys hidden in a bush, by who knows, and learnt how to start fires with dried grass and twigs.  I gazed over the fence which we used to go through to get to our swimming spot in the Mataura river.  The smell of that river has stayed with me.  I wonder how we were allowed to swim there unsupervised…  I’m struggling to remember if it’s always looked this vast.

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Finally the high school beckons…   I was astounded at how small some of the buildings looked.  At least 25% smaller than I remember.  Though in essence it looks the same.  Native wood, formica and industrial metal lends itself to a timelessness.  Of all of the buildings, it’s the school hall that conjures up the most memories.  I re-imprint the school emblem above the stage. Integrity.  The rows of stacked wooden bench seats are still there.

I think about how many people like myself are holding their breath in assembly and class so they aren’t noticed.  How many hover at the back so they might get through another day without dying more on the inside.  Surprised at the memories that flood back.  Some good… more bad.  Everything looks more overgrown on the steps outside the hall.  Did it always look like this?  So sad?  I look at the grass field.  It’s massive compared to many schools now and I vaguely remember we had the biggest field per capita.  But it was never big enough to hide on.

Which brings me to wanting to tell you this, if you’re wishing away each day like I did.  You will get through this.  I got through it.  Each day drags; hell a lunchtime can feel never-ending.  Another year will pass, then another.  Then one day it’ll be over.  You wont need to endure it to get your education, placate your parents with your attendance and get your ticket the hell out of there.  Start again.  I wish I’d known how small that school was, how small that town was so that I might have been able to understand that it didn’t define me.  It’s not my home any more.  Who you are at school doesn’t have to be who you are when you leave.  Create a new life.  As many times as you want.  Don’t like your job change it.  Don’t like your town change it.  Move.  It’s up to you.  Breathe.  Dream and Go.  Get the heck out of there, this doesn’t have to be your home.  It’s not mine any more.

In writing this I am conscious of not wanting to offend those who live in or do love Wyndham.  I know there will be many.  The opinions are my own and share how I feel about a town that was once my world. 

 

Central city park rushed through

This blog post has been edited, to remove my interpretation of a graph from the Hamilton City Council’s Long Term Plan summary, which I believed to show the majority of submitters being against the central city park.  It was pointed out, rightly so – that it shouldn’t be interpreted in that way – so I have removed it from this post so as not to be seen as ‘intentionally misleading’.  My intention for this blog is to inform as best as I can and encourage participation in civic issues, and I would never intentionally mislead or “lie”.  It’s not my style… you can find out and try to decipher the data yourself  on the HCC website.

The Council’s recent purchase of Victoria street buildings for a ‘central city park’, in my opinion blatantly ignores public feedback.  Here are the main reasons why I’m frustrated with this project and why I think the decision damages perception of our elected Council.

  1.  The Mayor admitted this was a boyhood dream.  As far as I’m concerned the only projects that should cross the Council table in a 10 year plan review are ones the community has asked for and where there has been a reasonable amount of legwork with the public / ratepayers.  In political speak this is “taking the residents with them on the journey”.  This project was rushed through.
  2. The true cost was and is largely a mystery.  Even Rob Pascoe, Hamilton East Councillor and former Accountant disagreed with the proposed budget for buying and demolishing the buildings.  That’s sure to kick us in the butt later…
  3. The integrity of the project was questionable.  Accusations about dodgy back door deals flew around and were taken seriously enough to call Audit NZ to do a report on the process taken to buy the buildings.  The report was held until after the project was given the tick…
  4. It’s in my opinion that the public is not in favour of this part of the overall River plan, in fact I think the Council has done a poor job of communicating what this proposal actually entails.  However, there is no clear data showing this – which is another symptom of the park not going through robust processes.

The central city park project was rushed, not costed properly and with a process already considered by some as dodgy, it was inexcusable for Councillors to disregard the loud public opinion against the proposal.  When residents don’t feel they are listened to it does irreparable harm which we’ve seen in a drop of voter turnout in 2016, and increase in negative indicators like those in the recent Quality of life survey.

Here’s the voting record for those who will use it to consider who to vote for in next year’s election.

FOR: King, Gallagher, Macpherson, Bunting, Taylor, Hamilton 
AGAINST: O’Leary, Pascoe, Tooman, Casson, Henry, Southgate
This vote was split so the Mayor used a Casting Vote FOR to break the tie.  Absent: Mallett

Read more: Central city mayhem

Martin Gallagher on why a Watchdog has been appointed to the Waikato DHB

Last month the government appointed a Crown monitor to the Waikato District Health Board to improve leadership and governance.  This appointment came after a series of well publicised, though not always completely transparent failings of the elected board.  Think back to Nigel Murray, Bob Simcock, SmartHealth and the budget blowout on the Collingwood street refurb.  The next step, if decision making doesn’t improve would be firing the board and appointing commissioners. It’s important to note that elections are only a year away but given overall lack of public understanding and participation – we shouldn’t accept election time will drastically change things.

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Martin Gallagher, who is on that board has kindly agreed to an interview and has given me permission to “ask anything” and to “not be afraid to be tough”.  Don’t mind if I do…  Earlier this year I  interviewed Sally Webb, then Acting, now Chair of the board.  While unspoken, I certainly didn’t feel I could “ask anything”.  You can listen to the podcast of that interview here (starts at 10min).

So this week I’ll ask Martin, what the role of the board is; the failings that led to a Crown monitor being appointed; how responsible he feels for some of those decisions; whether it’s time to ditch the current model; and how they are ensuring we have a sound hospital and health care service in the future.  Tune in to Free FM at 10am Friday.

Read more:  Who is on the board?

Waikato DHB gets government watchdog.

Board member calls for New Zealand district health boards to be reduced by half

 

 

 

Conservation week with Eugenie Sage – Minister of Conservation and Andrea Graves from Riverlea Environment Soc.

Ko te wiki tiaki ao tūroa tenei.  It’s Conservation week from the 15th to the 23rd of Mahuru.  For my 100th show, I’ll be speaking with Eugenie Sage of the Green Party of Aotearoa.  She is the Minister of Conservation and Land Information, the Associate Minister of the Environment and Acting Minister for Women.

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I’ll ask about her year so far – which included criticism of her signing approval for a Chinese company to bottle water at Otakiri Springs – Whakatane.  We’ll discuss protests at the Karangahake gorge over the weekend – resulting in the arrest of 5 people, including ex-Green party member Catherine Delahunty.  Eco and Ag-tourism are an economic opportunity for the Waikato, so I ask how we can ensure it’s sustainability.  With 1080 in the news again, we’ll korero about it’s role in conservation and finally how the coalition and central and local government are working together.

The focus of this year’s te wiki ao tūroa is our backyard – so coming back to local issues I’ve asked Andrea Graves to speak on behalf of the Riverlea Environment Society Inc about the mahi they do; their vision for the area, how development at Peacocke might impact on that and how we can get involved in advocacy and by getting our hands dirty!

Tune in to Free FM 89.0 (Waikato) at 10am this Friday.  Stream live online or wait for the podcast which will be shared on facebook or my website after the show.