Bennett: Passing Go Conference
20 November, 2009
Passing Go Conference: Social Wellbeing in the new Auckland Council
E nga mana, e nga reo, e te iwi o te motu, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa
• As you all well know, I'm an Aucklander.
• I love living here, and I'm staunchly proud of being a Westie as well as an Aucklander.
• This means that I'm here in two capacities - not just as the Minister of Social Development and Employment, but also as a local.
• You could say that makes me a community voice too.
• I know what it's like to need access to social services.
• I know what it's like to come from one of those "disadvantaged" groups.
• I mean, Maori teenage mother. The stats aren't so great.
• But I don't want to talk about the labels that separate us; I want to talk about the things that bring us together.
• Because it's in seeing our commonalities and working together that we'll all be able to do the best for Auckland and its diverse population.
• Like all of you, I'm a Kiwi.
• Like all of you, I want the best for our country.
• Like all of you, I want to see a strong, prosperous Auckland where everyone has the opportunity to do well.
• There is no doubt we all have the same focus, the same vision, the same goal.
• What we're here to learn about, think about, and talk about is how do we achieve that vision?
• How do we get to where we want to be - which is an Auckland that ranks highly on any social well-being scale,
What's Social Wellbeing?
• First, let's cut through the jargon and talk about what "social wellbeing" actually means.
• The best way I've heard it described is, "the things people value in their life that contributes to them reaching their potential."
• Social wellbeing is a shorthand way of referring to the conditions in society - health, education, productive work and so on - that allow people to flourish.
• It is people feeling good about themselves, their families, their communities and doing well at what they love, while still being able to provide for their families.
Why it's important for Auckland
• When you think about that definition, you start to understand just how critical social wellbeing is to the success of our city.
• If you have poor social outcomes, you can hold back the potential of not just individuals or even their families - but whole communities.
• If you're not getting people to reach their potential, then by default, you're not getting a CITY to reach its potential either.
• And as the Royal Commission pointed out, Auckland has the broadest range of social and economic differences in New Zealand
• It has the youngest and most ethnically diverse population in the country
• And it's important to note: Auckland is going to change anyway.
• It's demographic profile will be radically different in the coming decades - it's predicted that by 2016 the Pacific population will jump by 23% and the Asian population, by 58%.
• In contrast, they say the Maori population will only rise by 1%. We'll see!
• As the Royal Commission notes, the needs and preferences of Auckland's population in relation to council functions may change accordingly
• It's very easy for all of us to talk about a strong Auckland, a prosperous Auckland, a world-class Auckland... but let's never forget that is built from the ground up, person by person.
• What we're really here to do is to improve people's lives - their wellbeing, their ability to look after themselves
• If we can do that, the city will take care of itself.
• We'll have an Auckland that is:
• o The economic turbine of the country
• o Attracting people from all corners of the globe
• o Housing vibrant and diverse communities
• o A hub for creativity
The Royal Commission:
• Now the Royal Commission did an excellent job in scrutinizing where Auckland is right now and making recommendations on what needs to be done.
• I'm sure almost all of you have read that report.
• In it, the Royal Commission estimated that the annual spend on social issues in Auckland is about $12 billion.
• The Commission also considered the amount spent was poorly co-ordinated and lacked a coherent strategy.
• Take a moment to think about that amount of money - $12 billion dollars.
• That's an extraordinary amount of money - we want to sure that every buck spent, is spent right.
• There's a lot of good we could be doing with that, more than has already been done, if we can figure out how to best coordinate its dispersal, and agree on a strategic focus.
Why now is the time to sort out Auckland's social issues
• Now is the time to do this because we are about to see the biggest change to local government arrangements in Auckland's history.
• These changes give us a once in a lifetime opportunity.
• It's perhaps the best chance for the next century for us to put structures in place that will let communities, local government, and central government work together to address the big social issues of today, and of the future.
• Because the only way we will ever solve any of these issues is if we do work together - central government with local government with communities with people.
• It's all well and good to talk about this new structure in theory. But what does it mean for someone living in Otahuhu who doesn't feel connected to their community?
• What does it mean for a struggling family in Manakau? Or a parent at their wits' end because they don't know how to reach their disobedient teen?
• How will this new way of doing things make life better for all Aucklanders?
• Well, if we get this right - if we can work well together - I believe we can help individuals succeed, families become strong and healthy, communities thrive and the city shine.
• This will build a stronger Auckland region, which in turn will create a stronger nation.
One Council, many local boards
• We're already making headway on some of what needs to be done to improve the lives of those in the Queen City.
• One council for all of Auckland will scrap some of the duplication happening at the moment.
• It will help us get the system right so there's effective, efficient and tidy decision-making for Auckland.
• Underneath that overarching body of a single Council to set the direction for the City there will be Local Boards.
• These local boards will play a key role in their communities.
• They'll let the council and central government know what's best for their local community.
• Auckland may come under one Council, but it's never going to be one large monolithic city.
• It's likely always going to be interconnected and intersecting smaller village-style communities with their own style and feel.
• And that will work - I will ALWAYS be a Westie first and an Aucklander second. With all respect to my local council who I personally think have done a fantastic job in many respects for West Auckland - they don't define my identity. The people, the place, the vibe - actually, I do.
• Local Boards representing these diverse areas will know what's best for the people living in their own communities.
• You know, someone's relationship with their community means more than you might think. A common purpose can turn an individual into part of a team.
• For example, when an upsurge of neighbourhood violence gave the Otahuhu community a negative public image, they didn't sit back and watch: they did something about it.
• With support from the Auckland City Council and Ministry of Social Development, the Otahuhu Steering Group was created to give the community a voice. Members came together to share their view of how to make improvements.
• So what did they do? They painted over graffiti and hosted events like Gladiators of Change, to promote positive parenting.
• They also created the first annual Otahuhu Youth Expo to instil that sense of community pride in future generations.
• Local boards will mean local views and ideas like those of Otahuhu's are represented in broader decision-making at Council level.
An Auckland Social Policy Forum to tie it all together
• So we have a new council structure representing Aucklanders
• We have a new local board structure representing communities, and then directly into the council.
• And Cabinet has agreed to set up an Auckland Social Policy Forum, which will tie Central Government.
• The Forum members will include the Mayor of Auckland, myself as the Minister for Social Development and that key representation from Local Boards.
• I believe the Forum will provide a very real way for communities, Council and central government to identify important social issues for Auckland and figure out the way to best respond to them.
• The Government has identified the high-level outcomes we want the forum to achieve.
• 1. We want it to demonstrate strong leadership on social issues.
• o i.e. What needs to be done?
• 2. We want the forum to set a clear strategic direction.
• o i.e. How are we going to do it?
• 3. We want the forum to clearly identify the specific roles of both central and local government when it comes to social issues in Auckland.
• o i.e. Who's in charge of doing it?
• 4. We want the forum to drive the alignment of thinking and action on social issues in Auckland.
• o i.e. How do we get everybody together, contributing and being listened to?
• You know, we've proved in the past that great things can come from businesses, NGOs and government working together:
• ‘Tomorrow's Manukau' is an excellent example.
• In 2001, NGOs, central government and mana whenua partners came together to ask "what does the community want Manukau to look like?"
• They found that residents wanted to create a progressive, proud and prosperous city.
• One of the ways to do that was to honour Manukau's creativity and energy.
• So they initiated the Manukau Festival of Arts.
• An iconic arts event that celebrates one of the city's greatest strengths - its cultural diversity.
• And they were amazed at the numbers they drew.
• They found people were excited to celebrate the best Manakau had to offer.
• The Social Issues Forum will be able to achieve great outcomes like these by:
• 1. Identifying social priorities for the region, and for neighbourhoods and communities.
• o This means that there needs to be strong community involvement because what's important for Manukau might not necessarily be what the North Shore wants
• 2. It will develop joint action plans and projects.
• o Because despite the diversity of needs across Auckland, there are so often areas of overlap where working together in a cohesive manner maximises our resources.
• 3. It will look for gaps and overlaps in service delivery, and identifying things we do that undermine good social outcomes in Auckland.
• o We know some areas and communities are missing out, and that's not fair. Working together across the entire region will make it much easier to identify the gaps - and the overlaps - and do something about it.
• 4. Finally, we will monitor the outcomes of what we do.
• o Our solutions need to work and we need to know we're getting the best results for the money we are spending.
• So we know what we want to achieve, and some of how we might do it.
• But there is still a lot of scope to think about what function and form we want the Forum to have.
• There are still many decisions to make.
• o How will the Forum work on the ground?
• o How will it determine priorities, and how will it develop action plans?
• o Do we have the right people sitting around the table?
• Some of these decisions will be dependent on the final structure of Auckland Council.
Your voices matter
• I know that many of you have ideas and opinions on the Forum - what you want to see out of it and what you think it should do.
• The Forum has generated huge interest in the community and at a local government level.
• As I continue to work with the ATA on the design of the Forum, I want to make sure that everyone else has the chance to think about the Forum, talk about their ideas and views, and have those ideas and views heard.
• So I am going to release a discussion document early in the New Year.
• This discussion document will include some of Government's thinking, and it will ask for your ideas.
• Now I know it takes time to absorb the amount of information a document like this contains.
• It takes time to get out to your communities and talk to your colleagues, your friends and your families.
• And it takes time to distil all of that discussion, all of those ideas, all of that thinking down into an articulate response.
• So I am going to make sure you have the time by extending the consultation period until late May.
• That gives us about four months of reading, thinking, discussing, listening and responding to come up with the very best way to run this Forum so it best serves all the people of Auckland.
• In the midst of all these discussions about how we improve social well-being for the people of Auckland, let's not forget one thing.
• Auckland is a great city. It's made up of some amazing people. And there's lots of powerful action already going on at a community, local government, and central government level.
• Remember we've seen some real success in the last few years when we've managed to figure out how to best work together towards a singular vision - like dealing with youth gangs in Manukau.
• I want you to remember your successes, the partnerships that have worked, and the programmes that have created positive social change.
• This is what we want to emulate, build on and grow.
• Because if we can work together and focus on a common vision for Auckland and its people, we have everything it takes to make a real difference in the lives of the diverse population that make up this great city.
• Thank you.