Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Mayor supports radical plan to tackle poverty

Rotorua's mayor has joined forces with two other mayors in an attempt to tackle "entrenched poverty" - lobbying the Government for funding to develop the district's own solutions to its own problems.

Steve Chadwick, Far North mayor John Carter and Gisborne mayor Meng Foon have written to Prime Minister Bill English proposing "demarcation zones" in their districts to try new ideas in welfare, health, education, employment and policing.

The idea is based on a document, titled Demarcation zones for public policy innovation, published by public policy think tank the McGuinness Institute as part of the TacklingPovertyNZ Project and was sent to Mr English before Christmas when he was Minister of Finance.

The document, supported by the mayors, proposes radical changes to social policy and asks that each region is allowed to "develop its own ways of moving forward" and that they are given "the chance to replace old rules that are not working with new rules that are fit for the communities they serve".

The document suggested the three regions would be the best places to start given two of the mayors were former cabinet ministers and Mr Foon has been mayor of Gisborne for 15 years.

It stated, "the status quo is not acceptable. The question we need to answer is two-fold; can we legitimately allow the status quo, and the generational poverty it perpetuates, to continue unabated? and if not, how are we going to change direction going forward?

"The current system works to maintain the status quo, keeping people in poverty and spreading it like a virus," the report stated.

Mrs Chadwick said she had been meeting with the heads of Rotorua's social service providers, including the Ministry of Social Development, Child, Youth and Family, Housing New Zealand, the Lakes District Health Board, local educators and police.

"They asked me to chair their meetings in the latter half of last year and we spoke with the McGuinness Institute about their report.

"We were one of the three districts pointed to in their report and we are asking for devolution from central government to a local governance group, asking them to give us our share [of social service funding] so we can make the difference.

"I think it's great, because we know what's best for our communities and how we can tackle those inter-generational issues, but we need some level of central government resources, because if there isn't we will not give it a go."

She said it would not be run by the Rotorua Lakes Council, but would have council input when and where required. She stressed it would not be paid for by ratepayers.

"I don't want to make it political, I just want to make a difference. It needs investment to give it the legs, and we are not getting involved and rolling our sleeves up unless we have some enduring sustainability here.

"This is an idea worthy of consideration, we have some skilled people in this district and local skills and talent that can do this.

"The idea is not a short-term pilot, the problems here are the same as they were 10 years ago and are getting worse."

She said she had not had any direct response from Mr English.

Lakes DHB representative Dr Johan Morreau said he was "clearly delighted" with the goal.

"A planned community-focused contribution towards solving this is a big component of the solution."

Acting Rotorua police area commander Inspector Steve Bullock said while he was not part of the discussion group he was aware of the report and said anything that could help police tackle issues of inter-generational crime would be good for the community.

"A lot of those issues, like poverty and inter-generational violence, do manifest themselves in crime and any steps taken to prevent crime we would support 100 per cent."

Love Soup Rotorua co-founder Elmer Peiffer, who along with wife Gina provide support for Rotorua's homeless and displaced population, said he thought there were many initiatives in the report that would benefit Rotorua.

He said many people lacked basic life skills that should be taught in schools such as home economics, cooking, budgeting and basic skills such as how to open a bank account.

"There is more to be contemplated with this proposal, but what they have is an excellent start to a great initiative."

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said he would be interested to hear more about the report and its proposals.

"Where we have implemented social programmes here in Rotorua the experience is that the more community involvement the better the social outcomes, such as the children's team and the Excel education project.

"Some of what I have seen does have merit and are worth exploring and some would lead to some big challenges."

He said he would be happy to support changes if they could get better results for families living in hardship.

"But I don't think this should be a responsibility of council or government alone, it needs to be a part of the community as a whole.

"I think some suggestions could work, some not so much."

Some ideas for social change
• Ensure young people's experience with police is the beginning of a positive lifelong relationship.
• Enable young people to be exposed to academic study in their home towns.
• Remove licences for operating "pokies", running bottle stores, and other enablers of addictive practices from the area, particularly those close to schools and family homes.
• Have doctors regularly visit all preschools to assess children's health.
• Employ school bus drivers to drive an extra circuit during the day to enable otherwise geographically isolated adults to get into town and back.
• Create a local card that enables free filling of prescriptions from any chemist.
- McGuinness Institute Demarcation zones for public policy innovation

- Rotorua Daily Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 25 Mar 2017 00:48:21 Processing Time: 536ms