Shovel Award: for digging community into a bureaucratic hole
September 25, 2008
Ladder award: Gareth Morgan for commentary on NZ & global economy
October 6, 2008
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Shovel Award: for cutting community amenity budgets and calling it visionary

A Shovel Award goes to the people of the Christchurch City Council responsible for their “Community Facilities Network Vision” (pdf) to cut local community funding.

The “vision” is to cut $397,000 annually from the Community Facilities budget (as advertised by the Christchurch City Council in the Press, 24, 2008). The public are invited to tell the council how to cut the costs. The consultation process for this will take 18-24 months.

How can such cuts to community amenities be called “visionary”? Visions are meant to be inspiring, to open up possibilities, to create hope and energy. Cuts to community amenities are visionless.

One vision for Community Facilities Networking could be for well-connected local villages that can develop innovative networks which successfully address issues such as food, transport, energy, security, and human care. A visionary question for the public could then be how the Council facilities might support such a networking structure.

The current cost-cutting vision is a powerful public signal, intended or otherwise, that community is seen in Christchurch as a poor relation which is to be made progressively poorer.

What do you think? What’s happening in your area? Send in any nominations for either Ladder or Shovel Awards.

1 Comment

  1. Steve L says:

    I gather that the cuts take place immediately, being within the 2006 – 2016 LTCCP, and are followed by several years of consultation.

    That sounds not only illegal under the LGA, but also destroys the mutual trust on which consultation must be based if its to provide for sustainable outcomes. CCC seems to be stifling legal forms of consultation, consent and potential consensus, in favour of a corporatised form of prior top-down decisionmaking. This evasion of legality and of the public sphere in favour of top-down managerialism seems a long term threat both to the Parliamentary Government system and to local community networks.

    That this phenomena both arose from the government legislation that empowers Councils, yet seems to also undermine government, can be explained by the period of fervid neo-liberal dogma in policy and legislation from 1984. This seems usefully described as a coup d’etat that was so successful, nobody dares call it by its name.

    Whereas Parliament has more checks and balances, Councils are less encumbered in their dutiful following of the dictates of the second, local government, wave of Rogernomics. (Though here its best considering the RMA as twinned with the LGA, in the Council’s role of property governance through regulations and services, to refer to Privuptonisation.)

    CCC describes its LTCCP and its LGA processes as benign and positive. A win-win situation where ‘we’re all on the same side’. Indeed! Thats not my experience from over a decade of community organising.

    But cutting community services places greater pressures not only on the alternative provision of dervices from volunteers and charities, but on material and architectural facilities. On the land and buildings required to resource and coordinate community. This shifts the conflicts over budgets and finaces, over rates and consent and consultation, to also being Resource Management concerns. For if CCC’s public-focused spaces and places are cut back, they are either not being replaced, or replaced by private facilities.

    What I have outlined does seem a vision for some. Not for me. This glib CCC talk of visions in actuality impoverishes and blights our local realities of neighbourhoods and networks. The policy is clearly a shovel, despite its pretence to be a ladder.

    Other realted areas of CCC policy involve the development of a residents’ association policy. The current policy dates from 2001. However the current draft defines residents groups as equivalent to private interest groups, thereby continuing and deepening a private interest, corporatising model for ‘community’. The geographical and cultural locality of neighbourhoods, in particular their vulnerability to official and private development exploitation, is being isolated and silenced.

    This also is quite the opposite of any CCC facilitation of ‘networked localities’. Yet it needn’t be this way. With or without CCC.

    We need to liberate our visions from CCC, place them, as in this website, in the public domain, since CCC is no longer accountably representing public interests. The networking, needed to counteract ethnic parochialism (local commercial and status elites) and to minimise collective criminal forms of mutual aid (gang boundaries), has to be ground-up and flat-extending, not top-down.

    But CCC could usefully offer public webpages to facilitate this process. There is a current need for one single webpage with every residents’ groups desires and fears put up there in public, for public discussion and for comparison with CCC’s desires and fears.

    For we are not the same and its harmful to pretend otherwise when genuine negotiations are required. CCC could offer such a facility, and thereby offer genuine recognition of communities as independent and different, yet contributing in essential ways to the urban whole.

    Steve L

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