What's councillor life like during lockdown? Not that different to normal other than that all discussions are had over Teams or Zoom, and (like many people) juggling a toddler alongside these if there are too many throughout any particular day.
Waikato Regional Council seamlessly transitioned into level 4 and then 3 and I am grateful to our staff for having used the past year to make preparations for this.
Being home has given me more space to make new connections by reaching out to new people who do great things in our community and to think deeply on how to facilitate solutions for achieving wellbeing in our region. I'm learning so much.
I've also been spending more time on social media and I'm clear I can definitely share more content with you all, on top of the newsletter, so please drop me a line to say what you'd like to see where and how and I'll do my best to make that happen.
Thank you to all of you who are have made this lockdowns such a success and keep staying safe out there as we move through the levels.
Local Climate Action Update
In last month's newsletter I gave a bit of an update of what's going on globally, but the place where we can all make a difference is locally - close to home - while having some faith that our act of leadership will encourage and inspire others and help add up with everyone's efforts.
In a local government sense, I feel that we are on the cusp of some really great initiatives coming together and maturing, through better collaboration. The regular online calls I have initiated for councillors who are interested in climate action across our region, as well as the one for regional councillors nationally, are well underway and leading to more alignment and support for each other as implement similar measures.
We are avidly awaiting the national emission reduction plan and adaptation plan from central government, alongside other announcements and guidance, but it is imperative just to get on with it. Ideally those items will come before/around COP26.
One of the crucial next steps is to get region-wide coordination of key emission reduction and adaptation initiatives and options; with all councils and especially large organisations coming together to have formal discussions and do their part(s). This work needs to accelerate. We have some collaborative forums such as the Mayoral Forum and the Waikato Plan already but other spaces will be needed.
It's the combination between the vast knowledge held by institutions together with the desires and drive of the community that, when properly supported, can make for fast effective changes in the right places. That's why I'm very excited about the fact the Waikato will see its first ever Climathon ideathon event towards the end of October; sign up to engage and be sure not to miss out on the warm up events before the big day.
I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes out of this as it's a great chance for community ideas from the power of the crowd to come forward. I'm incredibly grateful that there are organisations like Go Eco who are a go-to place for individuals and community groups to connect and have their efforts supported.
On that note, I want to give a shout out to the University of Waikato for launching the world's first ever Bachelor of Climate Change; a very worthwhile option for anyone looking to combine a passion with the pressing need to work on this topic. This includes an active research component which means it includes some real-world experience.
Collaborative community efforts such as the upcoming Strengthening Communities Hui are the kind of initiative that starts to cross previous silos, so we need more of that. I'm also very inspired by the ideas of Climate Action Forum's such as the one in Rotorua, there is no reason not to have one in every district, and get them sharing their voice and supporting councils and other organisations.
Unfortunately, I currently still see the small and medium enterprise sector in danger of missing out on an easy path to get to know their emissions footprint (and how to reduce it) and strategic planning to address climate related risks and opportunities.
This is specialist work that large organisations hire a sustainability manager for, but SME's have many barriers. Since SME's make up ~97% of businesses it is so important that an innovative model is developed to get them support, so they can be allies and thriving long-term.
Council's hold a lot of fantastic data that can be incredibly empowering when visualised appropriately in an easy-to-engage way for the public. For example, the WRC's Coastal Inundation Tool is an example of a GIS map with data related to sea level rise (climate adaptation). It got me thinking that we should be visualising the greenhouse gas emissions data that we hold for the region.
This could be made available in an online dashboard, with more frequent or even real-time updates. Complementing this, calculators (like this one for transport emissions in Auckland) could be shared to demonstrate the likely emissions impact of investments, which could then be verified by looking back at the data displayed over time on the dashboard. Is there anyone out there who is really keen on this?
As you can see, here is quite a bit going on in this space and it will only increase as the issue becomes more and more pressing. Bringing the local lens to it really helps this topic come alive, and when we know what's out there it's so much easier to collaborate.
So - last question - would anyone be interested in a local podcast focused on climate action? If I get enough positive feedback I'll invest some time into making this a reality in some way; or if there is another better way to share stories then please mention too.
WRC Climate Action Committee Update
The meeting on the 12th August initiated a conversation to have two new members added, those being the two chairperson councillors leading our Integrated Catchment Management Committee, and this was finalised at the end of month Council meeting.
Their experience and expertise will be really helpful with key topics such as agriculture and soils, flood protection, biodiversity and biosecurity. There are many conversations to be had in the community on these topics, often through their committee as well, so it is helpful to bring them in for maximum alignment and engagement.
The first report of our agenda provided a great summary of what's been achieved to date across the council in regards to climate action and the forward work programme received good feedback for our staff to continue on with.
As each workstream item matures it will be brought to the appropriate committee and then full council for the final decision. Note that if a topic is of particular 'high significance' and triggers the policy requirement for community consultation then that will happen beforehand.
The external speaker presentation by Belinda Storey unfortunately suffered from some technical difficulties but was very informative for the committee to understand the methods used for assessing risks from sea level rise and the subsequent consequences. There are other useful pieces of work you can review here, here, here and this webinar.
Waikato Progress Indicators
It's that time of year again where the WRC is presented with the Waikato Progress Indicators. They are very important indicators that are used by WRC internally (for our strategic thinking and in some cases linked to policy KPI's) and externally by other councils, central government, NGO's and other community organisations or initiatives.
As an individual I admit I don't find the 15 year trend scorecard that useful, as its just a snapshot for data that I believe is more interesting when viewed as a relative trend, and it really needs a story to explain it in each instance. Hence, I've asked for an online dashboard for this data so anyone can drill down at a click to what they need to know.
I was glad to hear that there is a project underway to link these together with central government's wellbeing living standards framework but due to the importance of this data (being a great measure of the success of government) I'm amazed that this wasn't done years ago. Ideally it would be linked with NZ's planetary boundaries limits also.
Many of the latest trends have not changed significantly over a 15 year timeframe. We keep doing things the same and keep getting similar results. This reinforces to me that we need some bold directions to sort some stuff out that's important to us and that a lot of the solutions I advocate for would help (e.g. increased investment into walking, cycling and public transport).
A particular indicator that concerns me is that between 2006-2020 the public believing they have an influence over decisions their local council makes has gone down from 67% to only 37%. I'm always open to suggestions on how this can be improved, I'd be keen to hear your thoughts - that's my job.
Welcome Rangatahi Voices
Early in the triennium Councillors were asked whether we would support some form of initiative to connect with and bring out the voice of our regional youth to help bridge the gap of low engagement of this age group with our council. After receiving positive feedback WRC invested some of the time of a staff member to help set this up.
Despite a slow start due to the disruption caused by the first covid-lockdown, a group slowly and persistently progressed the idea to set up a region-wide youth-designed group who are now known as the Rangatahi Voices. They have representatives from each district and work across four topics of interest: environment, policy, social justice and tangata whenua.
They were well received when presenting their design to the Waikato Plan Leaders Group and are now on the scene as a youth voice that wants to listen and be heard in return. I look forward to working with them a lot in future to get this underrepresented perspective into our chambers and elsewhere. Follow them on Facebook & Instagram.
Hamilton City Council's newest Councillor
Thank you to those of you that did take the time to vote in the Hamilton East By-Election! The winning number of votes was 1774 which went towards Mark Donovan.
I met Mark during the WRC building opening in early July and have already spotted him on last week's online catch up between HCC and WRC councillors, where we had a chat and shared about the latest topics our councils are dealing with.
Coming up in September
If any of the meetings below sound interesting to you, you can check out the agenda's available a few days beforehand and/or ask me about any of them before/after. We are still not quite at livestreaming, but not far away I am told.
Raukawa and WRC Co-governance Committee at 10am on 6 September
Risk & Assurance Committee at 9am on 8 September
Lake Taupo Protection Project Committee at 10.30am on 10 September
Finance & Services Committee at 10am on 15 September
Future Proof Implementation Committee at 3.30pm on 16 September
Regional Connections Committee at 9.30am on 17 September
CEO Employment & Remuneration Committee at 10am on 21 September
Regional Partnerships Committee at 10am on 24 September
Regional Pest Management Plan Hearings at 9am on 27-28 September
Full Council Meeting at 9.30am on 30 September
This monthly insight has been put together to help you:
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Ngā mihi nui,