Form-storm-norm-perform. That's shorthand for the stages in groups formation that a guy called Tuckman first wrote about in the 1960s.
I'm nearly mid-way through my first term as one of two Whanganui councillors on Horizons regional council and pondering whether I'm stuck in the "norm" phase. I remember the "storm" phase clearly!
Our meetings are generally polite and disagreement less volatile. It's probably helped by the One Plan going to court, ironically, because we are now obligated, again, to follow the court's rulings.
When I stood for Horizons, my priority was — and is — being a strong voice for the environment, freshwater in particular. That's why losing a proposed amendment to a motion this week stings hard.
We received a paper setting our current swimmability achievement based on the previous government's somewhat controversial standards, and an estimate of where we would be by 2030 at present rates. It stated about 40 per cent of rivers and lakes met the measurement criteria, and we'll hit 60 per cent in the next 12 years.
The national target is 80 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040.
Now it's important to note that these measures, targets and even swimmability itself are all limited, constrained, flawed, unhelpful – whatever word is best. However, our target indicates an intention – an aspiration that informs our funding decisions.
I asked to increase our target to 80 per cent, but unfortunately only one person voted with me.
We did move it to 70 per cent with a majority vote, and — yes — 70 per cent is better than 60 per cent and implies a further increase in resourcing, but I was still disappointed in this result.
The reality is that the top category doesn't have to be achieved 100 per cent of the time (it's only 75-plus per cent, with some complicated median and 95th percentile thresholds to pass), so there was already some practical leeway built in.
I'm sure this is out of sync with what our community expects. Please let us know. We've just launched our consultation on the long-term plan, so we're set up to receive your views.
Check out our consultation summary on www.horizons.govt.nz or drop into a Horizons office to pick one up. Households will receive a hard copy submission form in mailboxes next week, or you can submit online.
We are making small steps forward but we rely on your participation to either reassure we're heading in the right direction, or send a clear message you want more (or less).
This democratic system we operate in works best with regular engagement. Don't just vote once every three years then leave us to it. Let us know loudly and clearly what you expect.
As councillors, we have to balance these expectations against an overall rates budget and this year we're facing a higher than usual proposed increase – an average of 7.4 per cent. For my own lovely central city Whanganui home, this equates to an estimated increase of $17 in my rates bill, so don't panic just yet.
I know there are people on low fixed incomes for whom any level of increase presents a challenge – what do they sacrifice for that extra $17? However, we're trying to do more for freshwater and other priorities, and I believe most ratepayers are happy to pay a little more to get there faster.
Finally to diversity around governance boards, including regional councils, with Green MP and Minister for Women Julie-Anne Genter being criticised in the past week for stating what seems to be pretty obvious to me – if we want more diversity around the table, we need members of the dominant stereotypes to make room.
There are many quality people of all ages, genders and ethnicities in our community who have an ability to serve and contribute their valid perspective and experience to governance roles. But it's hard to compete with established names – turnover is a big factor in getting fresh blood.
As an example of who's coming through in people not often heard, google "Naomi Wadler" – an 11-year-old girl of colour who gave an impassioned and impressive speech at a United States gun-control rally following the death of 17 Parkland students earlier
*Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.