Te Hiku Handed a Blank Sheet of Paper
Published Northland Age - 23 July 2013
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett Social Development Minister Paula Bennett broke new ground last week when she handed the very Far North what she described as a blank sheet of paper.
More than 200 people gathered at Te Hiku in Kaitaia to hear her offer a unique invitation to the community to share the power of her office to better deliver the ministry's services .
Te Runanga o Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi, who facilitated the two-hour discussion, noted that it was unusual for a Minister to talk to a community as Ms Bennett had done, and he had no doubt that the offer to devolve decision-making that was traditionally jealously guarded by politicians and civil servants offered enormous opportunities.
For her part, Ms Bennett said the answers she and the community were looking for were to be found not with her office but within the community.
Her interpretation of the partnership enshrined within the Treaty of Waitangi was that she was obliged to give some of the power vested in her to the community.
"I don't have the answers. You do," she said.
"My challenge to you is, what do you want and can you design it? What should the services your children, whanau and community need look like?
"My vision is that you do the work and I give you the resources to do that. I bring you the power of my office, and happily and humbly hand it over to you. Look beyond the now; what is the vision? The way it's always been done doesn't have to be how it's done now. Your presence here today means you give a damn.
"What's working and what's not? The truth is, I don't know. What I do know is that we can do better. I reckon we can make it happen, and fundamentally make a difference for the youth, tamariki and whanau of the Far North."
And she would be back.
"If we're serious about a partnership, it means me fronting up," she said.
"I hope you're excited, and can see the potential for what it can be. If we stay focused on our babies and children then the collective brains in this room alone will see a difference made. Let's just keep this korero going and see where it ends up."
Make it Happen Facilitators at the
"Turn The Curve hui in Kaitaia November 2013
Minister Bennett launches the "Make it Happen Te Hiku" project in Kaitaia
'Make it Happen Te Hiku' is described as an opportunity to take stock of current government spending in the very Far North and to allow families to have their voices heard regarding what is important and what is not, and what is needed for social improvement to achieve better social outcomes for Far North families.
While the way in which government funding is spent might change, the commitment has been given that there will be no reduction in overall funding.
The groundwork for the proposal has been done by the establishment of the Te Hiku Accord, signed by a range of government departments and three Te Hiku iwi (Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri and Ngai Takoto, with provision for Ngati Kuri and Ngati Kahu to join at some point in the future). The accord is founded on the concept of the government and iwi working together to improve social well-being for whanau, hapu and iwi, and the community in general.
The first step, launched by Ms Bennett last week, was to call for volunteers who will facilitate small-scale discussions about social advancement, what needs to be done and how it can be done. Those discussions might take place after work, within school families, sports clubs, even around kitchen tables, from Te Hapua to Kaitaia, across to Mangonui and to the Hokianga).
The network is expected to be in place before the end of this month, with volunteers to be trained early next month. Meetings/discussions should be completed by the end of September, after which the data gathered will be analysed and compiled in a report due for completion by the end of the year.
Volunteers will be trained, but the discussions they facilitate are expected to be very informal.
Sheridan Waitai, from the Ministry of Social Development in Whangarei, said 52 people volunteered to serve as facilitators at last week's launch, but there was plenty of room for more. Anyone who would like to join the list, or wanted more information, was welcome to phone Jesse on 901-0423.
"It's about galvanising the community to bring about positive social change," Ms Waitai said.
"Tell us what you need and how you think those needs can best be met. We want to see leadership within the community rather than the ministry saying what's going to be done and how.
"What's good about Te Hiku? What was good about it a generation, two generations ago? Talk to us about how we can get back to that space when people were more responsive to their community's needs and when people were better connected with each other than they sometimes are now.
"Is ministry funding being spent to the best effect, or could it be invested more wisely to get better results? How can we collaborate so we get the best value out of every dollar rather than a whole lot of people doing the same thing in isolation from each other?
"This is our chance to develop a model that really works for Te Hiku, and everyone can play a part in achieving that."