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Six Political Parties Discuss Their Support For The Community And Voluntary Sector

Yesterday, a webinar brought together six Members of Parliament and political party members to discuss their policies, priorities and responses to the needs and challenges of Aotearoa's community and voluntary sector.

“There’s no doubt over the last couple of months, the absolute value of the community sector has been demonstrated in a very visceral, very genuine, heartfelt and appreciated way,” says Hon Poto Williams, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and Labour Party representative.

Jan Logie, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Justice and Green Party representative, acknowledged that “Central Government relies 100 per cent on our community networks and organisations to be able to deliver on our policy agendas. That reality is not properly recognised yet.”

Discussion around the difficulty of gaining sufficient funding for the community sector occurred. The primary ask from the community sector is the re-establishment of an Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector which was absorbed into the Department of Internal Affairs in 2011. The community sector believes this will improve the sector being viewed as an equal partner across government and will open opportunities to better guide policy and budgetary decision-making for the sector.

Hon Tracey Martin, Minister for Children, Internal Affairs and Seniors and NZ First representative, talked about the current impossibility of the community sector gaining sufficient funding from annual government budgetary rounds. This was primarily due to the decision-making being located within a government department. She said that the community sector currently isn’t recognised as having the level of mana required within government to advocate for a complete change to the funding system.

Geoff Simmons, The Opportunities Party representative, talked about the biggest barrier for the community sector being the top-down mindset of government. “We design everything in ivory towers and then send it down to community groups to deliver,” Simmons explained.

“[The community sector] is not being heard by the government and they don’t feel that the government understands the issues that they face day-to-day and [therefore are] not taking their policy decisions on-board,” said Brooke van Velden, ACT Party representative.

“We’re all saying the same thing – that we need a systems change – and we all agree with that,” said Alfred Ngaro, National Party representative. “Our NGO and our voluntary sector are the backbone of our country but in order for that to be recognised, we have to realise that part of the systems change, the thinking change, is that social development is not separate from economic development,” Ngaro said.

Watch the full discussion online: https://bit.ly/2AWslna. A summary of the discussions will be published next week.

The webinar was co-hosted by Hui E! Community Aotearoa, ComVoices, Sue Barker Charities Law, and Trust Democracy, and facilitated by Rawdon Christie. Sponsored by the Todd Foundation.

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