"Shaping Rotorua's future" is the focus of a new city advocacy group called Evolve Rotorua. Its founders range from lawyers to businesspeople and tourism venture managers. Evolve's main goal is to spread the word about local projects it thinks will make Rotorua a better place, and advocate for them with local organisations, central and local government and more. But how does Evolve think it will get on with the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers group? And what do the mayor and RDRR councillor Peter Bentley think about it? Sam Olley finds out.
The founders of a new city issues advocacy group do not want to create an ''us-versus-them'' mentality with the Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers Association but they know their views will often clash.
Evolve Rotorua treasurer Claire Mahon told the Rotorua Daily Post in her view a lot of the conversation in Rotorua media and online platforms was negative and conservative.
"There is a lot of comment focusing on what we don't like."
Evolve Rotorua: Shaping Rotorua's Future
Evolve Rotorua: Shaping Rotorua’s Future We are a new advocacy group whose aim is to champion progressive social and economic projects and policies for an inclusive and sustainable Rotorua. We hope to bring people together, to act as a focal point and as a connector for stakeholders who are involved in projects and plans that are designed to better Rotorua. We want to help showcase policies and ideas that will improve our town, and to facilitate engagement and discussion on the future of Rotorua. We will work with individuals, voluntary and professional groups, to address social and economic issues of importance to the future of Rotorua. We support building stronger communities, holistically, ensuring inclusivity across the board, in order to make Rotorua better. We believe that in order to contribute to Shaping Rotorua’s Future we need to develop and support positive progressive plans and policies that take into account the needs of all of our community members.Posted by Evolve Rotorua on Wednesday, 27 February 2019
Mahon said Evolve Rotorua was formed because the district needed an alternative community voice about social and economic issues.
The group said it was strictly non-political and was not endorsing any local or central Government candidates or representatives.
The members who have been involved or are involved in politics, such as council contender Ryan Gray, will keep their work in Evolve Rotorua separate.
Gray said a lot of the advocacy group's work would involve standing up for ideas and projects in Rotorua and informing the community about how to help.
"What we can do better, as opposed to the 'let's just not do it' attitude."
Founding member Gary Sullivan, also founder of Nzo Industries, said Evolve had "a clear agenda to push all parties and candidates towards thinking about the long-term needs of our town".
Appeals hearing into water take under way in Whakatāne
Mahon said a lot of Rotorua's best work was being done in isolation.
"We would love to bring those silos together, the ideas and the people."
Chairwoman Kelly Shrimpton said Evolve Rotorua hoped "to act as a focal point".
Secretary Ben Sandford said although a lot of the founders were young or middle-aged, they welcomed support from any age group.
"Good ideas and good policy don't just come from young people."
He hoped Evolve Rotorua would help attract funding and investment to community projects too.
These included the Lakefront development, a Rotorua sports hub, sustainable food hubs, as well as "efforts to address the housing needs of our community... the use our forests and Redwoods... promoting Rotorua as a technology hub, among other ideas".
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Association member and Rotorua Lakes councillor Peter Bentley said, in his opinion, the district's focus needed to be on improving and maintaining infrastructure.
"Not doing pretty things at the Lakefront or in the middle of the Hemo Gorge roundabout. That doesn't improve the likes of our basic stormwater needs."
Mayor Steve Chadwick said she supported anyone passionate about progressing Rotorua, for everyone.
"Council can't do it alone and others may have ideas or identify gaps we haven't thought of."
Evolve Rotorua plans to start promoting projects via its website and local groups or individuals who are working on projects that will help make Rotorua better are invited to submit their information.
Chairwoman Kelly Shrimpton
She has spent most of her life in Rotorua, and it is well-known for her fundraising efforts and advocacy for cancer support organisations such as Leukaemia and Blood Cancer NZ. As part of her recovery from a mild traumatic brain injury she painted and held an exhibition in the Arts Village in 2016.
Secretary Ben Sandford
He was born and raised in Rotorua, and after spending 12 years competing internationally in skeleton racing, the Winter Olympian returned to Rotorua where he works as a lawyer. He ran as a Labour candidate in the 2017 election and is part of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Treasurer Claire Mahon
She followed her family roots and moved back to Rotorua six months ago. The international human rights lawyer was living in Geneva, Switzerland and moved the base of her consultancy business.