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Turia: National Community-Government Forum

National Community-Government Forum
Wednesday 11 November 2009; 9.30am; Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Hon Tariana Turia, Minister of Community and Voluntary Sector

Tena koutou katoa

You know it is a really wonderful thing to be amongst people who have such a generosity of spirit in the work you are doing in our communities – and I want to thank you for the work that you are doing.

I have been looking forward to this hui today - to build community, in the vital interchange between Ministers, community groups, providers, and representatives from right across the social sector.

My excitement rose as the waiting list grew and we realised the evident demand for the dialogue that will take place at this forum.

In these days of twitter, facebook, myspace and linkedin, it is reassuring to know that so many of us still see the benefit in meeting, face to face, community and government in one room.

I want to thank the Steering Group that organised the forum; and all of those who are working up front and behind the scenes to make things happen today.

This is an important juncture to take stock about the health and status of the relationship experienced between community and Government. We all know that Government doesn’t hold the monopoly on what works for communities and nor should it.

But we also know that there are some things that we can do together. We can achieve better outcomes for our communities. It is about all of us having a stake in our future, restoring the sense of collective responsibility to our communities and to our nation.

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The context for this hui is spelt out in two recent reports.

These are reports well known to this hui – as I know that many of you will have participated in the interviews and workshops, or made submissions along the way, and I want to thank you for those very valuable contributions.

The Good Intentions report by the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa – ANGOA - issued a range of recommendations which challenge us to build trust-based relationships, and to empower communities, to determine their own way forward. And I’m all for that.

The second report, From Talk to Action was developed by the Building Better Government Engagement reference group. This report focused on ways to build government skills, knowledge and values in collaborating with citizens and community organisations, in order to jointly tackle society’s problems.

In response to both of these reports, I took a paper to Cabinet and gained agreement to a series of actions. By now, you will have all received a copy of the Cabinet Cabinet minute in your Forum information pack.

Cabinet agreed to seek the views of today’s Forum on Government’s offer to develop a Relationship Agreement in place of the 2001 Statement of Government Intentions for an Improved Community-Government Relationship.

These reports provide the stimulus for the conversation today. They help us to create a new agenda for action; actions which will enable us to work more effectively together and to continue to meet the needs of our communities.

We will know that we have been successful when we agree that relationships between government agencies, tangata whenua, community and voluntary organisations are trusting and respectful.

Today, we want to hear from you how you think we can take our relationship forward - how we can build trust, and respect community organisations as independent entities.

I am always fascinated by the relationship between independence and inter-dependence.

Building a strong relationship between Government and the community sector places value on the common unity that we can find together – appreciating our distinctiveness while at the same time valuing it is that brings us together.

In this inter-connected world, our strength lies in the quality of the communication that we rely on.

When we understand each other’s needs and perspectives, it becomes possible for us all to deliver the best possible service to the people that we serve – our communities. Listening to each other rather than talking past one another.

I stand here today, knowing how hard people from the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector and from government have worked to foster better understanding of these issues.

And I am indeed proud of the progress that there has been made to date, particularly in light of the current economic situation.

The community sector is often the first line of response to communities which are hurting.

It is vital, and especially so in tough economic times, that we have co-ordinated responses that make the most out of the resources that are available.

The recent findings of the Grant Thornton 2009 Not-for-Profit Survey are interesting in this light.

That survey reported that most not-for-profit organisations are responding to the economic downturn by taking a closer look at their cost base to ensure spend is essential. It also revealed that many organisations have been increasing their fund-raising focus through strengthening relationships with long-time donors.

Nearly half of these organisations were even open to the possibility of considering a level of consolidation or merger with ‘like organisations’ in the future. From the conversations I have had, there has in particular been interest in sharing more backroom services across organisations.

This Government has also tried to step up to the mark; to improve the environment for community and voluntary organisations through such initiatives as the changes to tax laws related to donations, and the development of a Community Response Fund for social service agencies who have experienced increased demand on services during the recession.

But we recognise also that the individual government agencies need to get better at working with their community and voluntary sector partners.

A key lever to making the difference will be the drive to collaborate.

This requires a different mindset from a top down approach. We need to find ways to join forces and work together for the common good.

For this reason the theme of this Forum – Kia tutahi; Standing Together – is so important.

And I was really interested that that was the name that was chosen for this forum, for in actual fact it was a name from Ngati Ruanui in my electorate.

Tutahi is the name of a whare of Ngati Ruanui – and when the Prime Minister went to celebrate 125 years with that marae they gave him a pounamu to symbolise standing together – and they called it tutahi. So it is a very special name to inspire our forum.

Families and communities rightly want to take ownership of the important issues that affect their lives. Government’s role is to facilitate this and help you find your solutions – not to be the barrier - not to hinder.

Whether it be improving the quality of our waterways, involving ourselves in our children’s sporting or recreational pursuits, whānau protecting families from violence, ensuring that our children can read and write; or providing healthy warm homes, an enthusiastic and energetic relationship between Government and communities can do so much to make the difference.

In May, I announced Government’s support for the Community Sector Taskforce to continue its work to build and strengthen local community networks, and to assist community organisations to adopt Treaty-based engagement models and ways of working.

I have also established a Whānau Ora Taskforce, which is currently consulting on a framework for taking a whānau-centred approach to whānau wellbeing and development. If it is successful for Māori there is potential for this approach to be rolled out into our other communities in the future.

And I know there is huge interest in whanau ora from many of you, and in particular the Pacific communities.

These initiatives are an important start to the process of building a new era of community-government relationships.

I believe that by progressing towards a Relationship Agreement, we are together building a vital platform for better understanding, greater trust, higher respect, and mutual commitment in each of our community-government relationships.

The Agreement must articulate a shared understanding of how the Government, tangata whenua, community and voluntary sectors can work together in the future, respecting each others roles and responsibilities.

And so this morning, I invite you to discuss what the core elements of a Relationship Agreement might be, such as a joint vision, roles and responsibilities, and commitments from both sides.

We also need to discuss:

• What sort of agreement should we have?
• How can it be future-proofed?
• Who will be named in it?
• What needs to change on both sides to assure us all of success?

The Prime Minister will join us after lunch together with around ten Ministers to hear your preliminary thoughts. This will be followed by workshops, which Ministers will join to consider the next steps

I am also conscious that many people couldn’t get here today so it is important that we also agree on processes for involving the wider sector in whatever is decided today.

Finally, I want to remind ourselves of the results of a recent international study from the Legatum Institute which found that out of 104 countries surveyed New Zealand was ranked first in social capital.

The report concluded, and I quote:

“Trusting and willing to help strangers, close-knit New Zealanders display the highest level of social capital in all countries surveyed”.

We also ranked well in entrepreneurship and innovation; in health, and safety, and a range of other factors.

Sometimes we seem to focus so much on what is wrong, that we are at risk of losing sight of all we do so well.

What we do well is to demonstrate our collective concern for our people – our communities, our hapu and iwi, our extended families.

This is the moment to sign up to a new commitment about how we can work together to achieve results for our communities.

This forum is about laying the foundations for our future – about building a strong foundation, Whakapakari Hapori; Marohirohi kawanatanga – stronger communities, stronger Government.

Let us draw on all we know that we can do so well –let us trust in our communities to determine their own solutions; let us be innovative; and let us stand together, kia tutahi; united in our commitment to the wellbeing of our nation – and particularly our communities.

Tena tatou katoa.


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