Thursday, 10 July 2014

Notes from the most recent forum

One Voice Te Reo Kotahi
Sector Forum:
How NGOs, and the communities we work within can become meaningfully involved in the rebuild (with special reference to the central city and the residential red zone).” We place great value on participatory processes and our hope to leave an enduring legacy for us and our children after us. 
7.30pm, 3 July 2014
Netball Centre, Christchurch

Mihi & Karakia  Ra Dallas Katoa

Speakers:  Roger Sutton (Chief Executive, CERA), with Michelle Mitchell (Deputy Chief Executive, Social and Cultural Recovery, CERA), Baden Ewart (General Manager Operation, CERA).

Forum chair Katherine Peet introduced the topic for the evening and gave an overview of the sector.  She also updated what we had learned about how CERA would ‘transition out’ since the last forum.  CERA itself would not be disestablished in 2016, only its emergency powers and statutory functions would end. LURP will be reviewed in April 2015 and by then CERA has to have a plan for its progression to and beyond the end of its statutory functions. 
Katherine also gave the meeting’s thanks to CERA for providing the venue and refreshments and invited Roger to take the floor. 

The Questions
Roger had been sent clarifying questions relating to the main topic prior to the forum, and asked to address these.  They were:
Create, not just consult:  It is a priority for NGOs and the communities we work within that we be involved in co-creating the Progression Plan, rather than only being consulted after most of the work has been done.  How can this be ensured?
Big picture:  How is CERA prioritising input from NGOs and the communities we work within to clarify What Really Matters? in the work being undertaken?
Championing the NGO sector:  How can CERA both work with the NGO sector as one of the partners as well as champion the case for the sector as a partner with your strategic partners as work streams transition from CERA to other agencies?
Future proofing:  The Recovery Strategy says, in part, that "Development….. will meet the needs of future generations, taking into account climate change and the need to reduce risk from natural hazard.".  How can NGOs, among whose numbers are several which have considerable professional expertise in issues such as localisation of food security, energy matters, etc, contribute to the earliest stages of the development of the Progression Plan?
Monitoring:  We are interested in how and by whom CERA's statutory responsibility "to restore the social, economic, cultural, and environmental well-being of Greater Christchurch communities" will be monitored both in terms of transition and all plans.  How can NGOs be a part of this ongoing process?

The Discussion
Roger Sutton began by acknowledging the requirement for CERA to work with statutory partners, but also communities.  Strong institutions contribute to good recovery in natural disasters.  We also need people in the community with a passion to work for the recovery.  A city without people who are passionate about it is not a city. 
Roger is very aware of the contribution and importance of community and our sector.  This is not always recognized in the wider community.  For instance, the recent launch of the psychosocial wellbeing strategy Community in Mind, which is incredibly important for community wellbeing, got no media coverage.  There is a frustration in CERA that important people-related matters don’t get the attention that infrastructure/physical rebuild matters do.
We have come from a period of emergency response where there was a need for fast action.  We are now in a phase where there is a need and opportunity for much more conversation and engagement.  We need to be really aware that this is a very long journey.  If we’re going to get through it with genuine engagement we need strong community organisations to make sure that people get their voices across.  We’re still in an early part of this.  Different political leaders also need confidence that they can listen to and take account of community voices.

Katherine asked that given that plan is going to be in place by 2015, how can groups (especially specialist interest groups) be involved?  For instance the groups that value being in the central city so that residents living anywhere in the city can access them relatively easily.  How can we be sure that we as a sector are going to be included inside the frame?
Roger replied that the first avenue is through the formal system of the Community Forum and submissions to relevant statutory bodies.  Secondly, CERA is engaging with groups that have a special interest in specific projects or issues, e.g. sports groups in relation to the stadium, transport groups in relation to transport planning. 
CERA will wind down over time, not at 2016.  There is an expectation that a lot of CERAs role will go to CCC, but Roger is not so sure that this will happen.  For instance, government will continue to want to monitor progress while it is investing heavily in the recovery. 
Michelle Mitchell said that the first goal is to be in a position where it’s agreed what the plan will look like.  Much activity will be happening whether CERA is there or not and whether this is included in a plan or not.  She asked whether we want a crown agency to be involved in current collaborations that we are already engaged in.  The NGO sector will need to have involvement in defining what the plan will look like and we need to think about this and how we will structure ourselves in order to do that. 
From the floor it was commented that it is important that there is clarity around what our expectation is and what CERA are offering.  Collaboration happens from the early stages; it is not merely consulting and informing at the end.  Roger noted that CERA has to deliver a plan that government will accept and this shapes their work.  He is happy to work with the sector to achieve a plan that will meet both government requirements and sector expectations. 

A participant observed that CanCERN is a good example of working well with CERA in a process of co-creation.  However work on the future of the red zone feels more like being consulted rather than involved.  Michelle replied that CERA are required to do a certain number of things to get sign-off from government in order to be able to get to a place where they can engage with the community.  They first had to engage with statutory partners as part of the sign-off process.  This has been about how the process of engagement will happen.  As soon as CERA has this, it will engage with ‘activators’ – people in the community who have been leading and are actively involved in projects and initiatives related to the future of the red zone.  They will be asked about whether the thoughts so far around the process will work, or whether it reflects what has already been said so far. 

Roger was asked how CERA was prioritizing input from NGOs and the communities we work within to clarify what really matters in the work being undertaken.  Roger replied that this is the crux of the Community in Mind strategy.  There was an interim plan for immediate needs, the sector contributed to this.  There was a lot of engagement with the community, including NGOs/non-profits, to develop the new strategy.  The next piece of work is to develop a programme of action -  Are the supports and services that have been in place over the last 3 years still fit for purpose?  What else is needed?  There will be lots of opportunities for continued engagement – community-led recovery and government-provided services need to be talking to each other. 

The issue of sector wellbeing was raised, with increased workloads, more complex needs, and exhausted staff.  Where can groups go to when they reach the end of their tether?  Things are getting worse for the sector.  Funders around the country think the quakes are a thing of the past.  We need CERA to champion the sector and to advocate for us, and we need to find a way to wave the flag when things are getting desperate. 
Roger replied that CERA tries to get the big picture and gather data, bring the information together, then work with other parts of government and with NGOs to facilitate finding solutions.  It was noted that there was nowhere that has an overview of the wellbeing of the whole sector.  Michelle suggested that there was a need to bring together and articulate and prioritise issues.  CERA can have a role to connect up people relating to how to address the issues.  Associate Minister for Earthquake Recovery Nicky Wagner offered to organise a meeting with Jo Goodhew, the Minister for the sector. 
It was noted that funding issues are a perennial problem in the sector.  We have to separate out which is relevant to the quake and which is for government policy to address.

An organization representative said that most people they see are struggling with rent.  They are dealing with people living in cars.  In Australia after the bushfires they capped the rent increases that were allowed.  There has to be some kind of regulation. 
In response, Roger and Michelle outlined housing initiatives to date and noted that state agencies and others are working on further solutions.  Associate Minister Nicky Wagner noted that government capped the rents for the temporary villages.  She explained that demand is greater than supply, and government has been building for workers in order to take pressure off existing stock.  If we cap private rentals people won’t build any more, we need more houses so we can have the capacity that will keep prices down. 
An attendee asked that the Accommodation Allowance be raised to the same level as Auckland’s, as rent levels are now the same as Auckland.  Nicky responded that that would just cause rents to go up further. 
A WikiHouses representative said that they have been promised by eight CERA staff at different times to get them in to talk about the WikiHouses initiative, but nothing has eventuated.  The initiative has worldwide credibility and Christchurch is regarded as a world leader.  It has the potential to contribute significantly to housing solutions but needed CERA to make connections.  Roger undertook to follow up.  He emphasised to Roger that he should note that social enterprises are part of the Sector as described by OVTRK and that they are distinct from the commercial or statutory Sectors.
It was questioned whether the army’s tradespeople be deployed to build workers’ accommodation  Social problems need to be part of the response of creating villages for workers, but it can be done.  Baden Ewart explained that much of the grunt of the army comes from territorials, who have day jobs.  The question is what can we do to create housing quickly to resolve the immediate issue?  What is the role of government, given its intersection with the private sector.  The biggest problem for affordable housing in NZ is in Auckland, there is a need to find a solution that can be applicable to both Auckland and Canterbury.  There are physical solutions, but they bring other issues.

CERA Community Forum member Emma Twaddle said that we have an opportunity to build not networks but communities.  CERA needs to find ways of supporting this, communities have been working bloody hard, but many feel that they are just puppets.  She gave examples of not being involved with CERA initiatives in spite of being on Community Forum. 

Ariana Wilson of Otautahi Women’s Refuge gave the picture of life as a worker in a refuge and gave stories of women that she is working with.  She pleaded with Roger to use whatever power he has to try and influence a recovery that doesn’t leave these people behind. 

The meeting ran out of time, and Roger offered to write down answers to questions we had posed and to find a mechanism to enable a conversation around them.  Michelle said they need to know what form we want to be involved in – how do we propose to do that?  Are there particular areas? 

Shirley Wright from Christchurch Resettlement Services acknowledged CERA for how they engaged in an appropriate helpful way in the refugee/migrant sector.

Final thanks and concluding remarks
Katherine thanked CERA for coming to the forum.  She drew attention to the distinct role that the sector plays and the process by which we contribute our voice.  We don’t have the recognition, if we can get that then the resourcing should follow.  We want from CERA some shelter of our activity because CERA is unique in that it has a mandated relationship between local authorities, government departments and tangata whenua.  Whatever process is found for participation, OVTRK would wish to do it in the Treaty relationship model that it works in. 

Karakia whakamutunga:  Ariana ended the evening with a karakia.