This week has been busy – and I got a bit of grief from my eldest, Mr Eight, about not being home enough.
He was pretty forgiving when I explained why — I've been wearing my Horizons hat and I've had three full days of people speaking to their submissions on the regional council's long-term plan.
My boys recently did their first submission to the Whanganui District Council's long-term plan – they were concerned about the proposal to retire the mobile library bus.
So when I said it was my turn to be sitting around the table hearing from people with concerns (and occasional commendations), Mr Eight thought that was a good enough reason to be rushing them, and myself, around.
On Thursday when listening to submissions in Whanganui, we had an elderly woman making her first ever submission. It was amazing to see her overcome her nerves and speak directly and clearly about the pressure of increasing rates on those with low fixed incomes. And she wasn't the only one.
There will be a number of hard decisions to make when we deliberate next week, not least how to keep rates low while delivering at least some of the important new work people are seeking. I appreciate everyone who has had their say, even those who come across like grouchy talkback radio callers. One thing is certain, grumpy or not, we won't please everyone – some topics attract directly opposing views.
When my boys submitted, I was so proud of their confidence, speaking to the mayor and councillors on their own, answering questions.
Of course, the confidence is a burden, too. I've tried to explain that just because they spoke well and presented a clear case why the library bus was valuable (as Mr Six said: "The library bus can drive and houses can't."), it doesn't mean the council will agree. Needless to say, they were shocked that could be a possible outcome.
We haven't got the final decision on the library bus yet, and at Horizons we haven't started debating any possible changes – that's next week. But there's one theme that came through loud and clear – climate change.
We had submission after submission highlighting the need for Horizons to do its bit by setting targets for its carbon footprint and ensuring the impacts of climate change are considered in everything. The most impressive submission was probably from the All Saints Parish Green Task Force, who proposed specific targets to get to zero carbon by 2050.
The opportunity for Horizons to be a leader in climate change has passed, but we could be a fast follower and learn from the best that's been done so far by other councils and organisations. I'm feeling hopeful.
At the other end, I was disappointed recently in the votes against establishing Māori wards in the Western Bay of Plenty, Palmerston North and Manawatū. It's unfair to allow a majority to determine the representation of a minority, particularly given the principle of partnership in the Treaty of Waitangi.
Two tweets sum it up for me:
@_jeremyhansen: "These referenda on Māori wards are so flawed. You can't have the Pākehā majority voting on whether Māori should have greater representation. It's not democracy. It is simply entrenching existing power structures."
@NikkyD77: "Majority rules = 2 wolves and a lamb deciding what to eat for dinner".
Consider signing up to the www.our.actionstation.org.nz petition asking for the Local Electoral Act 2001 to be amended so the process to establish Māori wards and Māori constituencies is the same as the process used for general wards and constituencies.
Finally, my pet hate from the hearings was listening to people slaughter Māori words. Fortunately, Taupo doesn't come up too often (it's "toe-paw"), but Horowhenua often came out with emphasis placed inaccurately on "nua". Radio New Zealand has advice on how to say it correctly: "haw-raw-fhen-oo-ah".
And to the beloved "Wh" in Whanganui – it is an aspirated or breathy sound just like an old fashioned "where". Give it a go.
*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.