The DCC Draft Annual Plan: A Call To Arms for Democracy in Dunedin

By   /   March 26, 2014  /   4 Comments

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Last year Council only got 262 submissions. Fewer than half a percent of people in this city were able, and willing to share their opinion by taking part in the Annual Plan process. To me, that’s a sign that our local democracy is sick, and we all need to work together to try and fix it.

Vote

The Draft Annual Plan process is the single biggest opportunity our community has to tell Council what they think we’re doing well, what we could do better, or where we should be focusing our attention. The list of each of these things can be as long or as short as you like, as simple or as detailed as you like. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest writer, if you have an opinion – and the one thing I’ve learned so far is that when it comes to the Council everyone has an opinion – we want you to tell us what it is.

Last year Council only got 262 submissions. Fewer than half a percent of people in this city were able, and willing to share their opinion by taking part in the Annual Plan process. To me, that’s a sign that our local democracy is sick, and we all need to work together to try and fix it. Previous Councils have perhaps been less than listening to the desires expressed by their community, but from what I’ve seen and heard so far, I believe we now have a Council that will (by and large) make decisions based on evidence, guided by their electorate. That should be something we could take for granted, but sadly this hasn’t always been the case. I urge people who may have felt burned in the past, for their help in trying to make the system work again.

As I mentioned, the process is open to anything people want to bring to the table, but Council are also asking for feedback on a handful of specific matters, including;

Ethical Investment

The DCC’s Waipori Fund is product of the Bradford Reforms, essentially, when Dunedin sold the Waipori Dam to TrustPower. The fund is the proceeds from the sale, which has been ringfenced as a revenue stream. It’s a pile of money sitting in a managed fund, generating dividends to offset people’s rates bills.

As a result of submissions to last year’s Annual Plan, Council agreed to look into options around an Ethical Investment policy – what exactly are we bankrolling in order to generate that income? Currently we have an informal guideline which says we won’t invest directly into munitions or tobacco, but there is no policy. We want to know whether you think this should be formalised, and whether there are other categories of investment also excluded. Research shows there is more volatility in returns, but is inconclusive about the impact on long term returns (some claiming success, others failure so far).

It’s been an interesting debate, actually, largely in terms of the degree to which we need to consult on this. Occasionally, you’ll hear the argument that we’re elected to govern, as a Council, and need to be able to make decisions on the basis that we are representative of our peers who elected us to make them on their behalf. I’ve never believed democracy is a three yearly event, or that being elected is a three year license. This is something that our community have told us they feel very strongly about, we owe it to them to include them in this conversation.

Heritage Building Reuse Incentives

We have some of the most phenomenal architecture in the country. I believe our built heritage is one of the city’s great assets, and the work recently that has gone in to bringing it back to life has been stunning. The money invested by Council in supporting these projects is a pittance compared to the overall investment by building owners. The flow on effects, economically and aesthetically, make it one of the smarter investments the DCC has made in recent years. The success is in no small part due to the commitment of DCC heritage advocate and urban designer Dr Glen Hazelton, well worth a specific mention, who has worked tirelessly on a shoestring budget to achieve great things. In setting the Draft Budget, Council voted in support of increasing that budget from $132,000 to $370,000.We want to know whether you think increasing the capacity of this work, particularly helping encourage large projects like the Chief Post Office reopening, is worth us investing in.

Food Issues

Coming out of a recommendation from the Community Resilience Forum last term: Should we create a 0.2 staff position to work on food issues for Dunedin? They would focus both on challenges and opportunities for our local food system. Food is big business, and we have some very successful food businesses. How can we as a city expand that, as a sustainable industry that is expanding rapidly internationally? On the other side, how can we as a community help make sure that people are getting fed? The idea of resilience gets talked about a lot, generally in terms of surviving natural disasters, but there’s also a need to help our communities survive economic and/or climate disasters as well. We have some of the poorest and densely populated neighbourhoods in the country. I believe government has a moral obligation to help people who need it, whether that’s putting food on your table or your food products on shelves. There is a lot of good work going on in the community in this area – what could a part time staff member dedicated to co-ordinating and assisting this work bring?

Community Infrastructure

There are a number of issues that are neighbourhood specific this year, too. For years Council has been asked to develop a library for the South Dunedin community, with money allocated long term to build something in that line. This year, we are asking for feedback on whether a temporary shop front library / community complex should be established next year, to assess demand and potential function. A more detailed proposal for a South Dunedin Community Complex, including possible community partners, will be considered for inclusion in the 2015/16 Long Term Plan.

Speaking of long running lobbying, $30,000 has been set aside as seed funding for a community trust in Mosgiel to finally look into getting a new pool developed. There has been a proposal to consider changing the order of the Peninsula cycle / walkway project (to work from the City out, for example, instead of the current phased schedule). There are three options on the table currently, and we want to know what you think before we commit to one.

The summary of the Draft Annual Plan 2014/15 lives online here, and you can make your submission (before 5pm, April 15) here. The list of public meetings and events where you can talk to Councillors and staff about the Draft Annual Plan are listed here. Anyone who wants to come along and talk to us about your ideas, tick the box to have your submission heard in person. We’re a friendly bunch, honest, to please don’t be put off participating. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me ahawkins@dcc.govt.nz and I will try and get an answer for you as soon as I can.

 

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4 Comments

  1. The Real Matthew says:

    I’m surprised they got 262 submissions

    We elect a council to do a job. Your council must be borderline incompetent if they can’t work out where they stand on these minor issues. Instead they waste ratepayer money to consult ratepayers on issues they should be able to work out themselves.

    On second thoughts perhaps these do constitute major issues in Dunedin.

  2. Tom says:

    If you want community involvement in local government, you probably need to have at least some of it done on a street by street level, with neighbourhoods, districts and so on represented going up the food chain.

    I don’t see anything stopping people from being able to decide how city beautification money gets spent on their street, and they would probably take more of an interest if they had control.

  3. Aaron Hawkins Aaron Hawkins says:

    Apologies – the first of the links (to the summary) doesn’t appear to be functioning as planned. You can also find it here: http://www.dunedin.govt.nz/your-council/draft-annual-plan-2014-2015/summary-long-term-plan

  4. Gerard says:

    Some excellent points Aaron. I’d like to think you’d include the old rail tunnels as part of our ‘built heritage’ as they are just that! Currently they are being used exclusively as off-limits conduits for utilities, but could very quickly be a major jewel in Dunedin’s Heritage crown if the Council choose to invest.