Dear Members

CanCERN has always been about ensuring the resident voice is heard and considered with equal merit at the table of the decision makers to progress community led ideas, concerns and solutions. After 20 months of relationship building we generally have the open doors we need to do this work. Where it falls down though is when the resident ideas or concerns are having to wait until they become a priority issue for the leaders.

So how does this look?

Well, Minister Brownlee seems to think the community leads.

“I hear a lot about a lack of community input into the recovery. This is nonsense. Communities are driving the recovery.” Original here

However, CanCERN, along with other community groups, have raised concerns about what we perceive as a ‘crisis of confidence’ in CERA’s engagement process. While we all admit we can access great CERA staff and work intentionally in the spirit of win-win community-led outcomes, it falls down when the final decision maker sits outside of the engagement and in fact, often shows very little regard for the recommendations CERA staff make as a result of the engagement process.

We do not believe it’s appropriate for Minister Brownlee to be the final decision maker with initiatives that are community driven because his responsibility is primarily an economic one to the government and therefore, New Zealand as a whole. Surely a more locally focused decision maker is more appropriate.

We have experienced this directly when after 10 months of positive engagement trying to get the Reuse, Recycle, Relocate Project working temporarily out of the Residential Red Zone, Minister Brownlee totally disregarded the recommendations of his own staff and said no. To be fair, it wasn’t a flat ‘no’; it was a ‘pay a ridiculous amount of money for the privilege’ which became a ‘no’ when we complained about it. Is this type of decision making – shooting from the hip – the Ministers understanding of ‘Communities driving the recovery’?

CanCERN and others have been challenging CERA’s engagement process in a bid to get community assurance that investing time, money and energy into engagement with CERA will be a worthwhile investment. That doesn’t mean that we expect CERA to say yes to every idea that comes from the community but we do expect to have much greater clarity about where the final decision lies and about the likelihood of positive outcomes long before the heavy investment of time and resource. None of us have time to waste on something that will go nowhere.

We talk past each other though because CERA’s engagement process serves CERA’s outcomes. As Minister Brownlee describes more clearly below:

“’This community-led impetus is within the context of  a planning and investment framework provided by the government, through CERA and  other government agencies, and local territorial authorities.” Original here

We acknowledge and respect the commitment of the CERA Resilience Team who are working hard to ensure community engagement is a planned aspect of all CERA-led Programmes. (A copy of the ‘CERA process for engaging with stakeholders and the community’ can be read here). However, we have yet to see the same commitment towards developing a process that serves the community first and have challenged the team to push back against the mantra that “this is how governmental departments work”. The community are unable to care about how governmental departments work because they are faced with the daily realities of their communities. They care about how community-led initiatives can become an integral aspect of the overall recovery and are completely paralyzed by the fact that the government and its systems are not there to help them.

A final word to the Minister; community-led recovery is led by community priorities and community leaders, including local MPs, councilors and board members.  When will you stop and truly listen to what they have to say and delegate engagement and decision making back to Canterbury so that Canterbury can decide how Cantabrians will best recover.

Kia Kaha Everyone.

The CanCERN Team