By Tim Howard
Some of the biggest issues facing Te Tai Tokerau as we head into this year's local government elections are homelessness and substandard housing, poor health, poverty and unemployment.
There is also a growing realisation of the immensity of the crisis resulting from accelerating climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and pollution of the land and waters of the north.
Our group Community Economic Development Network Te Tai Tokerau (CEDNTT), meeting in Moerewa, has been bringing together CED practitioners and others who share an interest in creating and keeping jobs local, and in supporting enterprises which are both socially and environmentally beneficial – focused steps towards meeting the big challenges of our day, well.
For us, community economic development (CED), in both the Māori and wider economy, means the establishment, maintenance and promotion of enterprises that are community-owned, not for private or personal profit, and which have objectives which are of social, economic and/or environmental benefit.
This includes organisations in which some of our network members are involved, including CBEC (Community Business and Environment Centre) in Kaitaia, He Iwi Kotahi Tatou Trust and related projects in Moerewa, Healthy Homes Tai Tokerau, the region-wide insulation initiative that has made low-income 10,000 homes warm and dry, as well as Climate Change Taitokerau Network, Channel North Television, and others.
CED is a holistic way of viewing and working with the economic transactions of a community or region. This approach is a natural ally with small and medium for-profit local business; it encourages local purchase and supply of goods and services, keeping money turning over in the local economy, and creating and maintaining jobs in the region.
CED practitioners encourage cooperatives and community enterprises. Their ventures focus on social good and ploughing economic dividends back into meeting hapū and community goals.
They often have a focus on reducing environmental or social harm while strengthening communities, whether it's a marae nursery producing plants and trees for riparian planting, a papakainga housing project, community and Māori media, or enterprises which work in areas like waste reuse and reduction, food distribution, weed and pest clearance, cleaning up waterways - and so much more.
We think these approaches resonate with the hopes of many in Taitokerau. With local body elections taking place over the next weeks, our network is interested in what candidates for mayor, councils and community boards think about CED and related issues as parts of a myriad of constructive and necessary solutions to the issues confronting us here in the North.
You may want to consider some of our questions (below) for candidates, and then pose them to people standing for election locally:
Do you have ideas about practical ways in which you think local government can play a more effective role in supporting community-based economic development and local job creation?
What would you do to encourage your council to support specific hapu development projects?
Will you personally encourage council to look at social, economic, job preservation, community economic and environmental factors, and prioritise local providers of goods and services, rather than selecting the cheapest out-of-town provider?
What roles do you think council can usefully play in helping to lift people out of conditions of substandard housing and homelessness?
How would you support Māori and community housing providers to work effectively, alongside others, to improve housing in the north?
• Tim Howard is spokesman for Northland Community Economic Development Tai Tokerau - he can be contacted at email@example.com .