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When I ran for council, I was pretty shocked at how much power we give to Government.

We make ourselves powerless in so many ways – by outsourcing our food and water, relying on local government to do the best they can with the limited resources they have: Fix the environment, fix our waterways, house the homeless… But keep our rates down!

The way this situation plays out, it makes it really hard to achieve meaningful change. We just expect too much to be done for us. It’s important that we ourselves become more active and work together to solve some of these issues ourselves.

So our first action should be to take back some of that power. A really good way of doing that is within our neighbourhoods …

““If we are to save our cities we must revitalise our neighbourhoods first””

— U.S. PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER, 1976

Those who were around in the pre-screen days will reminisce about knowing their neighbours well. Kids biked from place to place and everyone knew where all the kids were because there was a pile of bikes outside little Susie’s house. Most houses were built with front porches because without a tv, parents would sit on the front porch and watch the kids play, enjoy the well-kept front gardens and socialise with their neighbours.

Society was set up for neighbours, but not so much now. We are all strangers in our own streets and really we should be asking ourselves what this means for the next generation. I’m sad for my children who don’t explore the neighbourhood with friends, that there’s no more after school games at the local park, all play is under an adults watchful gaze. I miss how alive the streets are with kids playing. I’m worried that our children are almost prisoners in their own homes. Why should the next generation care about the wider world if they’re increasingly being excluded from it?

I’m thinking a lot about the relevance and the need for “neighbourhood organisations”. Not just online ones, but real-life opportunities for the community to come together.

There are a few organisations in Gisborne – Ka Pai Kaiti and E tu Elgin, for example. In the run up to last years’ elections E tu Elgin hosted GDC candidates to discuss the issues they were facing, such as the absence of playgrounds in Elgin, as well as both Cobham and Elgin schools seeming to be teetering on the brink of closure.

It was exciting for me to see people engaging in the political process through their neighbourhood organisation. This is where change can begin to happen. When people come together, we can begin to fix some of our own problems collectively. What could be achieved if all neighbourhoods had their own organisation? I started researching…

These tips came from an online journal:

HOW TO START A NEIGHBOURHOOD ORGANISATION:

  • Use people’s immediate interest to organise people to act on a specific, local, winnable issue on a seemingly one-time basis
  • The victory when won, creates a sense of efficacy
  • Allows the organiser to start people working on other issues

I messaged the organiser of the successful “Wainui Beach Community” group that has around 1300 members and a large group of active participants. I asked her how she created hers, to which she replied with the following:

“I started the page by adding about 25 people whom I knew lived in Wainui and encouraged them to tell their friends & family. Whether they did, I’m not sure. It took a while to get people to start engaging & posting (a couple months!) but it started and has since kept going. It’s mostly been organic”

With the possibility of coronavirus on the horizon, this seems like as good a time as any to take that first step in getting to know our neighbours, other people on our street, if we don’t already. If people in our neighbourhood do have to go into isolation over the coming weeks or months, do they have someone to bring them food or other supplies if they run short? The simple exchange of phone numbers could be as much as required, but let’s make this an opportunity to bring together our fractured communities and show each other we care.

If you live in Inner Kaiti, have a look for the Inner Kaiti Community I have started on Facebook and if you live elsewhere, the process can be as simple as a simple letterbox drop or door knock, or of course, Facebook. You might just want to stick with the people who live on your street, or a section of your road, if it’s a big one.

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