Tag Archives: community

Youth Offending in the Eastern Bay

I heard some really interesting news on Wednesday. I was representing the District Council at a meeting of the Youth Offending Team, and the Police Youth Aid Officer was talking about offending rates in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

To give some quick background, the Youth Offending Team is a monthly forum where different agencies working with young people can get together and share what they are up to. Not everyone can make each month of course, but we had people from Oranga Tamariki, REAP, Voyagers, Tūwharetoa Ki Kawerau Hauora, Manna Support, Te Pou Oranga o Whakatōhea and others. It was a really interesting and informative meeting that covered a lot of ground.

One of the things I almost always hear in these kinds of forums are cases of really successful schemes that got funded for a pilot, proved their effectiveness and then struggle for enough on-going funding to work properly. This time it was REAP’s Manaaki Programme, designed to support kids to stay in school. Being disconnected from school can be a real blow to some young people as it can disconnect them from friends, adult support and opportunities. It was great to see different agencies offering advice about where pūtea could be found to support this important initiative.

I was also pleased to hear about a mobile playgroup that is starting up and will be focussed on Awatapu to start. Lots of comments made at the Awatapu community day a few weeks ago highlighted the need for more facilities for childrens, so this should provide a useful service in the area.

But the really interesting news for me came when Tom Brooks started talking about offending rates. Apparently youth offending rates across the country are sinking rapidly, except among young Māori. Youth offending by Māori is going up across the country – but in the Eastern Bay it is going down. Similarly the high teenage pregnancy rates in Kawerau and Opōtiki have plummeted. This is a great story and one that I have not heard before.

“What has caused that?” I asked. In reply I was told that the police are being less precious and are taking a more responsive approach through Problem Oriented Policing (look it up). I heard about the police working with iwi, such as through the Hui-ā-Whānau that Tūhoe is championing. I heard about agencies working with the whole family, including siblings, rather than just focussing on “problem” children. I heard about less reliance on courts to solve problems. Most of all I heard about the community looking for its own solutions and coming up with the goods.

To me this was a reminder that we live in a really resilient, grounded and innovative community here in the Eastern Bay, and that we have a lot going on that other areas on the country can learn from. It was great to be part of the YOT and I look forward to more.

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Whakatane Social Sector Forum proposal

PRESS RELEASE 12/9/2016

Nāndor launches Social Sector Forum idea for Whakatāne

Nāndor Tānczos today launched the third of his ‘great ideas for Whakatāne’, this time focused on community development.

“There are some awesome social sector organisations around Whakatāne, but there is no regular forum for them all to share what they do with each other and talk about how they can work more effectively together. This lack of coordination makes it hard for organisations to create the synergy that comes from strategic coordination”.

“By supporting the different social agencies working in Whakatāne to get together on a regular basis, to share information and coordinate their services, council could do something useful for the community sector without spending a lot of money” said Nāndor.

The idea for the Social Sector Forum came out of discussions with a number of people working in the community, who described the difficulty of any single agency pulling such an initiative together. Yet just as the Halo Project has drawn a number of environmental organisations together around some common themes, the social agencies could benefit from taking a more coordinated approach guided by a broad common vision. The Council is in a prime position to take that role.

“It is not council’s role to do community work. It is a council role to support the community to be its best. This kind of social infrastructure is just as important as roads, drains and pipes but would cost almost nothing – just a venue and some facilitation.” he said

“Having a healthy, connected community is in everyone’s interests. Helping to support that is an investment in our future, in terms of making Whakatāne a more attractive place to visit and to live, increasing social cohesion, building resilience, and reducing crime. Once again Whakatāne has an opportunity to show leadership to the whole country with some fresh thinking and some political leadership”.

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Lobbying for the Environment – Kaipatiki EcoFest

Last weekend I ran a one day workshop up north on understanding and influencing the political system. The session was part of the Kaipatiki EcoFest and was held at the Matakana Hall. A big thanks to Trish Allen for getting me up there and organising everything. We had about 12 people there on the day, as a few had to drop out at the last minute for various reasons. The great thing for me was that the people who came were the kinds of people who will really make use of what they learned. Many were local community and environmental activists and it was a real joy to work with them. As usual, I learned a great deal from the discussions. Perhaps the best feedback I got was from one participant who said, as she left at the end of the day, that she had come along with a bunch of excuses in mind as she had intended to leave at lunchtime! So much for making plans I guess. Since the weekend I have had some really positive feedback in emails from people who were there and some offers to help to get the workshop into High Schools – which is something I would really like to do, especially given the low rates of participation in the last elections. I need to do more work to fit the workshop into school timetabling and link the learnings to the curriculum but I think there is a lot of potential in the idea. On my way home I managed to catch up with Graeme North, one of the founders of modern earth-building in Aotearoa. It is always a pleasure to talk with someone so knowledgeable about their subject and still so passionate about creating accessible, non-toxic buildings that arise out of local materials and the local community. Graeme has a great built-in bullshit detector so it is always interesting to ask his opinion about various things going on around the place! All in all a great trip, and worth it despite the long drive from the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

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Visiting La’akea Permaculture Community, Hawai’i Island

I’d forgotten to ask for directions when I arranged to visit La’akea Permaculture Community so I had to stop for help in Pahoa. I stumbled upon The Locavore Store, which was full of great local fresh produce as well as sauces, balms, oils and things, and I swapped stories about food and politics with the friendly people tending the store. They offered me the use of their phone to ring the community.

Unfortunately I couldn’t understand a word the guy on the other end of the phone was saying. A lot of unfamiliar words plus some kind of American accent I’m not used to. I stopped asking him to repeat himself after the third attempt and decided to make do with the vague impressions I’d jotted down. Go past Pahoa then something about looking out for a couple of signs on the road. I half got the first one (Lelania Station?), no idea what the second one was. It was enough, anyway, to find the place after just one missed turn.

Tracy Matfin met us at the main house with a huge bowl of popcorn and a warm hug. An engaging and knowledgeable woman, Tracy explained to us how the community had come about and some of its ebbs and flows. It had started as the project of a wealthy individual who had purchased the land, had a permaculture design made for it and funded the first stages of its implementation. This had included trucking in large amounts of soil (since the land is basically broken lava for the most part), planting trees and establishing some infrastructure. The process had not left much time to “observe and interact” and some elements of the design had to be rearranged over time, such as the siting of water storage to allow it to be gravity fed to irrigated plots.

The land became available for sale at the right time to allow the original 7 community members to purchase it. That number has changed over time, with people coming, leaving and some people changing to living there seasonally. Now the community consists of 11 adults and 2 children, aged 6. The children have been attending a local Waldorf school but the intention is to develop some kind of home schooling.

The biggest focus for the community has been social permaculture. “It’s no good having a whole load of people who know how to plant trees if they argue all the time” says Tracy, emphasising the importance of Compassionate Communication (or Non Violent Communication) as part of the social toolkit. There is only one kitchen in the community so people learn to deal with things promptly instead of allowing them to fester. After all, you can’t hide away when you are having a problem with other people – sooner or later you have to emerge for dinner.

Despite having broken her leg roller skating, Tracy took us on a tour of part of the property. It was amazing to be in a tropical food forest and see papaya, huge lilikoi (passionfruit), cacao, coffee beans, vanilla beans, jackfruit, cardomom and a whole heap of tree crops (including greens) that I had never even heard of. There were also tropical sheep that looked like goats and some Australorp chickens. The high rain fall on the Puna side of the island meant the vegetation was thick and lush, although the same could be said for some of the invasives such as cane grass.

The property is financially self sustaining but the challenge now is for the members to be able to sustain themselves financially from the property as well. Most of what they eat is food they have grown but the community ebbs and flows around the question of how private they want to be – since the community is their home – compared to the income potential from running educational courses and events. This is a question that is regularly revisited as the membership changes.

From what Tracy said there is little coordination between permaculturalists in Hawai’i, to the extent that PDCs in different places can clash with each other, to everyone’s detriment. There is a desire to create some coordination and people to take this on may be starting to emerge. There is also an attempt being made on the mainland to create a US-wide permaculture organisation that will cover teacher accreditation among other things, but there is resistance among local teachers. The process is seen by some as being expensive, onerous and with no real value. Small and slow seems to be key here. The USA is such a big country that finding a way to organise without creating a distant, and bioregionally irrelevant, central bureaucracy will be a challenge.

Like in Aotearoa, an issue for the permaculture movement in Hawai’i is how it engages with the kanaka maoli, the indigenous people. There is a huge interest among native Hawai’ians in food sovereignty but access to land is the issue. Hawai’i is being sold to overseas developers at inflated prices while the indigenous people can rarely afford to buy land in their own ancestral islands.

Actually it didn’t make much sense to me for Hawai’i to be seen as part of a US based organisation. Hawai’i is a Pasifikan nation and while it may be under US occupation, it belongs firmly in the family of Oceanic islands. Creating stronger links between permaculturalists throughout the Pasifik Ocean seems a useful goal and already permaculturalist from Hawai’i have travelled in Aotearoa, while New Zealanders have come here – including time spent at La’akea by the ubiquitous and magnificent Robina McCurdy.

Papaya

Papaya

A tree green for the pot Tree greens[/caption]
P1070301 Cardomon [/caption]
P1070303 Cacao [/caption]
P1070307 Vanilla [/caption]
Tracy Matfin Tracy Matfin [/caption]

I was left with the thought that one day I would love to see a Pan-Pasifik Convergence. Visiting La’akea showed me that we have so much in common and so much that is unique to each island group. Sharing our stories and learning from each other can only be good for us all.

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