With the advent of the winter solstice over the weekend we have reached the mid-point of the year and our orbit takes us back toward increasing daylight hours.

This is always a good time to reflect on how the year is progressing for us, whether any goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year have been realised, are still relevant, or require a bit more time to progress. It is also an important time to honour the unique heritage of our district with opportunities to celebrate Puanga, the arrival of the new year as traditionally recognised by Whanganui iwi. This special celebration of the heavens and the seasons is rich with cultural history, a time where we can come together and acknowledge what this can mean to us in our contemporary world.

Housing is definitely an issue that is significantly impacting our people, right here, right now.

The Women's Network has been privileged to be an active member of Safer Whanganui, a community collaborative working in partnership with the Whanganui District Council to enhance the safety and wellbeing of people in our region.
The "housing crisis" has led us to be real about the factors that have resulted in a collision of increased demand [and reduced availability] for social and emergency housing, as well as the increased demand and rising house prices across residential housing in Whanganui.

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For many of us working at the grass roots of social services, housing has continued to remain a hot topic in our work with the community. Anecdotal evidence and qualitative data provided Safer Whanganui with some useful information, and in recent times we have sought to strengthen this by actively collecting and seeking robust quantitative data. Consequently, a draft Housing Strategy is now out for consultation. While a wide range of key stakeholders were consulted in the preliminary stages of developing the draft plan, ultimately it is the diverse voices of our community which will help to further shape and develop the plan into some achievable goals that will aim to improve housing outcomes, including emergency, social and residential.

This is a real opportunity to participate in our political democracy, and to share your experiences for the benefit of everyone. Submissions close at 5pm on Friday, July 5. You can make an online submission via the website or via email, and if you need any assistance with getting yours together, guidance is available, just ask. Visit the Whanganui District Council, Davis Central City Library or Gonville Cafe Library to pick up a hard copy of the draft plan, or you can check it out online via: www.whanganui.govt.nz/haveyoursay.

This is a particularly important year for having your say with local government elections coming up in October. Now is as good a time as any to make sure you are eligible to vote. Check in with your friends and whanau to see if they are too. All of us aged 18 and over have the opportunity to exercise our civic responsibility, and it remains an important one to exercise. Tune in to regular council meetings via Facebook live if you want to check out who is currently around the table making decisions on your behalf, or you can attend public meetings in person at the Whanganui District Council Chambers. It really is quite enlightening to see who contributes, and what they have to say. We can all make a difference by taking an interest, and if you feel that your views aren't being represented around the council table, think about encouraging some different and diverse voices to step up and be heard this coming election.
Email: womnet.whanganui@gmail.com.