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Local government and community development

Hon. Tariana Turia
25 September 2003 Speech Notes

Local government and community development

Speech for Local Government Community Development Conference, Napier War Memorial Centre


E nga mana, e nga reo, tena koutou.

Ngati Kahungunu, karanga mai, karanga mai.

Representatives of the Napier and Hastings District Councils, local government community development workers, thank you for your invitation.

On Monday, the New Zealand Herald reprinted a report from 100 years ago, about an amendment to the Maori Councils Act.

It was quite startling reading, actually.

The report said that, to enable the Maori Councils to prevent drunkenness and sly-grogging in Maori communities, it was proposed to amend the law (and I quote) ‘to give the Maori Councils power to fine Europeans … for selling drink to Maoris, or tobacco to Maori children, for desecrating burial grounds, and for keeping gambling houses or billiard halls …’

The article continued: ‘A Maori council is to have all the powers of a local authority in connection with the registration of dogs, and may arrange with any European authority for the registration of dogs.’

It was proposed that enforcement of Council bylaws could be delegated to a committee of five, with powers to recover fines through the Magistrates Court.

Another proposed amendment allowed the Governor, on the recommendation of the Maori Council, (quote) ‘to reserve oyster, mussel, or pipi beds, and fishing grounds exclusively for the use of Maoris’.

What was startling about this article was not the powers of the Councils. They were quite limited, really. It was the reminder that, 100 years ago, distinct Maori communities were quite functional, they were at least partly autonomous, and the law recognised their role in local government.

100 years ago, alcohol, smoking, gambling, and customary fisheries were serious issues facing tangata whenua. The solution was seen to lie in our own hands, backed up by the authority of the Crown.

In order to protect the integrity of their communities, the Maori Councils had to be able to control the behaviour of Europeans who entered ‘any kainga, village or pa’, including ‘all Maori settlements on gumfields, whether on native land or not.’ Even Victorian lawmakers accepted that.

Without going into the details of how the Maori Councils were constituted, we can say that recognition of tangata whenua autonomy, and support by the Crown, was common sense in those days.

Fast forward to today. Drinking, smoking, gambling, wahi tapu and fisheries are still topical issues.

What some people find harder to accept is the role of whanau, hapu and iwi organisations in protecting the interests of tangata whenua, especially when they overlap with wider community interests.

For example, in recent debate on the Gambling Act, some commentators scoffed at the idea that tangata whenua should be represented as of right on the statutory bodies that regulate gambling, and that Treaty principles should underpin gambling legislation and policy. What’s the Treaty got to do with gambling, they asked?

Yet people seemed to understand why local government should lobby on behalf of local communities for powers to regulate gambling in their areas. I see the two situations as comparable.

A local example of disagreement over the role of tangata whenua in community affairs is the dispute over Puketapu.

The name itself tells you the hill is a wahi tapu. For tangata whenua, ancestors and history are embedded in wahi tapu. Links to wahi tapu go right to the heart of tribal identity, and survival as distinct communities.

There must be a way for issues that are absolutely critical to tangata whenua to be given due weight in local authority decision-making.

Which leads us to our discussion today, on community development, and the roles and responsibilities of the various parties, as set out in the Local Government Act.

I see from the programme that I am down to talk about “more for less”. That sounds a bit like one of those scams – too good to be true.

I’m certainly not going to talk about how the government can squeeze more from the others, while contributing less. In particular, there is great strength in the third sector but I know it is often built on a very narrow resource base. The capacity of the sector can be over estimated and organisations stretched up to, and sometimes tragically beyond, their limits.

I would like to see both central and local government agencies who work with community and voluntary organisations being much more aware of the costs that our processes may impose on them. We must be prepared to support them by meeting those costs. And I would like to see more effort put into building the capacity of the third sector.

The success of the community development processes set out in the Local Government Act will depend on all parties recognising the ways we can contribute to the outcome, and our ability to work together. Perhaps this is how we can all get more for less.

The Act, which came into force from 1 July this year, recognises that community outcomes are a matter for communities themselves to identify. They are not the local authority’s outcomes.

The Act does not determine what the outcome, or even the process, should be - rather, it creates a framework for the parties to build constructive relationships.

Local authorities have responsibility for facilitating the process by which communities identify the outcomes they want for their future well-being. Local authorities must undertake a consultation exercise on community outcomes at least once every six years.

They can work out their own process for identifying outcomes and setting priorities, within broad parameters.

The basics of the process are to:

- know who needs to be involved

- reach agreement on the process

- gather information

- identify community outcomes

- put a plan in place to work on achieving the outcomes and

- monitor and report on progress

The Act sends a strong signal that local authorities should be looking to work in partnership with other local authorities, central government, tangata whenua, the private sector and communities, to promote community well-being.

Local government often engages with partners through contracts. A party to a contract must be a legal entity. And this raises another point – the service provider or the representative body is not the same thing as the community they claim to serve.

The reporting requirements of a contract can often have the effect of making the legal entity more accountable to the funder, than it is to the community. In the process, the community loses its voice.

This can happen to small, local service providers, who lease an office or receive a grant from the local council. It can also happen in major projects, like managing a port or civic centre.

For major projects the council often contracts with a business, people most like themselves, rather than the local community, who have the greatest long-term interest in the development.

Where big money is involved, and the legal risk is high, the council might find it concentrates more on its own compliance with the terms of the contract, rather than ensuring that public outcomes are achieved. This is a major issue in community development.

Accountability issues are not confined to tangata whenua, in fact, I think Pakeha communities are harder to recognise, and they can experience huge problems making their voices heard among the lobby groups and vested interests.

There are a number of provisions placed in the Act to ensure that the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty are provided for. Much of what local government does is directly relevant to tangata whenua and the provisions are intended to ensure that the specific concerns of tangata whenua are heard when local authorities engage with their communities.

For example the Long Term Council Community Plan that local authorities are required to prepare must include a description of how the local authority will work with tangata whenua to further community outcomes, and what steps it intends to take.

The local authority must consider ways to foster the development of tangata whenua capacity to contribute to decision-making processes.

I use the term tangata whenua or mana whenua deliberately in this context. It is not sufficient for councils to consult any old Maori. On matters of land and natural resources, in particular, mana whenua must be involved.

Some local authorities have already made significant progress. I want to mention Manukau City Council’s efforts to develop Treaty-based relationships, and their ‘Treaty toolbox’, to help them to be more responsive to tangata whenua.

I know a number of councils have followed the lead of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and created Maori seats, to ensure at least some representation at the top decision-making table.

In New Plymouth, the District Council has taken a very principled approach to settling a longstanding grievance, by returning a block of council-owned land to tangata whenua ownership.

The Crown’s purchase of the Pekapeka block 140 years ago, in defiance of the recognised rangatira and in breach of the Treaty, sparked the land wars in Taranaki. The return of the land is a significant act of community development – not just for tangata whenua, but for Waitara, and the whole of Taranaki.

Unfortunately, most local and national politicians find it difficult to address Treaty issues as matters of fairness, justice and right. The electoral system encourages them to consider the effect on their electoral support first and foremost.

As the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, I am in the somewhat unusual situation of having officials in two departments working for me.

My officials in the Community Development Group of the Department of Internal Affairs are central government’s main community development resource. They have been refocusing their work to respond better to the demands that the new community planning processes will place on them.

The Group has also been working on a strategy to support hapü to achieve their aims. The Group has only a small resource, but I expect them to help local processes where they can.

I also have officials in the Ministry of Social Development, who have been looking at how central government responds to the third sector.

One focus has been a Government Policy on Volunteering, which was released in December 2002. The policy builds on, and complements, the Statement of Government Intentions for an Improved Community-Government Relationship, which set out formally the government’s commitment to building strong and respectful relationships with community, voluntary and tangata whenua organisations.

Government agencies are expected to consider the needs of volunteers and their organisations when they are developing policies and delivering services, and to consult with volunteers and organisations on changes that impact on them. This includes taking into account the costs associated with volunteering.

A new Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector will raise the profile of the third sector in government, and facilitate the government end of relations with community and voluntary groups.

The Office is located in the Ministry of Social Development. It will provide advice on cross-government policy issues affecting the community and voluntary sector, including those that affect volunteers and volunteering.

A new resource – the Good Practice Participate website - has recently been launched by the Office to help public servants meet the challenges.

I also want to acknowledge the work that I know community organisations are doing to strengthen themselves in their dealings with local and central government. One example is the development of quality standards by the third sector for its own use.

Standards for Advocacy, Research, Fundraising, Volunteers, External Education, Training and Promotion, and Website and Telephone Help-lines are being tested for the Te Wana accreditation package, co-ordinated by Healthcare Aotearoa.

This is an exciting time for local communities. In some ways, what lies before us is what has been done before.

I think of those Maori Councils. Perhaps community development is community re-development. If we can learn to recognise existing communities when we see them, we will find it easier to engage with them, and we will all benefit from working together. More for less.

I congratulate you on taking these three days to think through the challenges ahead and I wish you well.

Kia ora tatou katoa.


ENDS

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