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Speech: Managing the Downturn Together - Turia

Impact on Communities:
Managing the Downturn together
Wednesday 25 February 2009; 10am
Auditorium, Level 3, Bowen State Building, Wellington

Hon Tariana Turia,
Minister of the Community and Voluntary Sector

Tena koe Steve mo te karakia i tenei ata.

I want to thank Tony Mayow, Alasdair Finnie and Jennifer Gill for the invitation to be here today.

You don’t have to be a meteorologist to realize that the forecasts are for grey skies ahead with frequent showers and occasional storms.

Indeed, a casual read of any daily paper will oblige with more than a scattering of scary headlines.

“One in five fear for their jobs”.

“Young Pacific people will bear brunt of economic recession”

“Tight times are here to stay says English. Restraint is permanent”.

Tightening the belt has moved from being an honourable ideal to a matter of necessity.

It is the context of this economic downturn that has created the need for this workshop today.

What we know, is that even while the impact of the economic recession on philanthropic sector funding is uncertain, there is likely to be less funding available for distribution in the immediate three to five years.

We know that some funders are likely to be more hard hit than others with incomes being affected by donations and corporate sponsorships.

Providers too, may face an increased demand for services, as the impacts of the recession are felt amongst families and communities.

Faced with such facts, it is a challenge for even the strongest amongst us, to withstand the threat of despair.

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And this is where we must call on each other to engage in preparation; to organize to meet at every opportunity.

Teri Williams, an American author, had some insights into the nature of despair. She said:

“Despair shows us the limit of our imagination. Imaginations shared create collaboration. Collaboration creates community and community inspires social change”.

A vivid example of such inspiration was on the front page of the Dominion Post when a young woman who had lost the use of both of her legs, enlisted the help of Weta studios to become transformed into a mermaid. I thought that was just wonderful.

And so this is where our skies may suddenly brighten, our forecasts lighten.

First of, I want to thank the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations, Philanthropy New Zealand and the Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector for your leadership in inspiring social change.

Your initiative in bringing people together from right across the community and voluntary sector, philanthropic and government sectors, is exactly the type of collaboration our communities need to combat the economic downturn.

I want to thank Tina Reid and Robyn Scott for the huge amount of work you have done in putting this together. Tena korua.

What you have done - is what we all must do in our own ways, in our own sectors and communities. You are forcing us to look at new ways of working, to create opportunities to make a joined up approach actually make a real difference to our communities.

At the end of this week, the Prime Minister is calling together chief executives of Government agencies, private firms, state owned enterprises, iwi organizations, unionists, local leaders and a sprinkling of Cabinet Ministers to come up with ideas at the Jobs Summit.

I take your point regarding the exclusion of this sector and the important role you play, and I will inform the Government of your concerns.

And on the same day, the leaders of the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic. Methodist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army Churches are meeting with the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services to discuss the local social impacts of the global economic crisis.

While some are planning and plotting, others have already made some things happen. Just over a month ago, my colleague Dr Pita Sharples, held a Maori economic workshop to discuss actions that Maori could take as a community to ameliorate the effects of the recession on our people.

And I hope I’m not releasing breaking news, to share one of the key themes that emerged from that hui. Because over 120 participants concluded that coordination and cooperation were identified as essential to ensuring small scale enterprises could survive in times of finite resources.

Over the course of this workshop then, we are being asked to problem solve about how we can all work together to address the effects of the downturn.

To do this, we need to know the nature of the beast.

I read an interesting article in The Guardian last month, which suggested that the recession has not stifled the public’s spirit of giving.

The Individual Giving survey estimated that donations from the British public actually increased eight percent on the 2006/07, and in fact their Children in Need Appeal raised its highest ever total of ₤21 million in one day.

The British experience suggests that even if donors may have less to spend, it is not necessarily their altruistic belts that are tightened first.

Success lies in charitable organizations being able to demonstrate that their contributions are not only needed, but there are measurable outcomes and impacts which prove the effectiveness of their work. And I’m pleased to see Suzanne Snively here today.

A key outcome for this day will be to see whether the British experience is matched here at home; to ascertain the true impact of the downturn on non-profit organizations from a social and economic perspective.

Currently the community and voluntary sector receives approximately $1.9 billion from philanthropic and grant funding sources. What we want to know by the end of today, is a clearer picture of the situation.

The information we have to hand suggests the following:
• That while community trusts have been hit by the downturn in the investment market, with the exception to the ASB Community Trust and Bay Trust, most will maintain their grants at the usual levels;

• The ASB Community Trust, the largest of the community trusts; has cancelled its normal funding round for the first half of 2009; Bay Trust has suspended its future grants round.

• Gaming trust incomes are likely to be down 15-20%; I can’t say that I’m terribly sad about that to be honest – we have to look at other ways of getting funding. Energy trusts incomes are also likely to decline; corporate donations and sponsorship are likely to be hit hard.

Notwithstanding these real and tangible effects of an economic downturn, there is fertile ground for focusing on collaboration across our communities, for embracing the opportunity for change.

We can reasonably expect that there will be some already marginalized communities who will be hurt in the first stages of the recession and will experience the prolonged effects through such facets as hunger, crime, homelessness, poverty and ill-health.

More people will be in need; the demand for volunteer effort will increase; and the need for donations of time and of money will be greater than ever.

We know, through the traumatic toll of natural disasters such as the floods that have ravaged large parts of our country in recent years, that people do respond to emergencies by joining together, to do something.

So we must have confidence that in the crisis of economic fragility, our communities actively roll up their sleeves, and invite new opportunities into their lives – to make a difference.

The more we can learn to work together, the more we can listen to each other, the more we are likely to make the sustainable difference that is needed.

Today’s programme is all the invitation we need, to know that we can – and we will – manage the effects of the downturn together.

The session from Suzanne Snively will be a vital stepping stone to plan our progress forward; the panel discussion brings together people who possess an amazing range of funding philosophies and community priorities; and the open space themes will encourage the dialogue and debate that we need to generate in creating solutions.

The diversity in this room is astounding. We have people from budgeting services, family violence providers, advocacy groups, health groups, housing, education and research organizations; sport and recreation bodies, unions, sustainable development and strong representation from the Philanthropic Trusts.

That such a meeting of minds – funders; community and government – can occur at such short notice is both highly unusual and a fantastic reflection of the dedicated commitment of this sector.

You are the people who literally help to lift the spirits of all those who call Aotearoa home, and I mihi to you all for your generosity of service.

I am extremely proud to have been invited to officially open this national workshop, and to wish you all a constructive and a challenging day together.


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