Never one to sit idle…

Somehow I decided earlier this year that I wasn’t quite busy enough, so along with starting a new job, I put my hand up as a candidate for our local community board. It was officially announced in the local paper today.

So…why did I do it? and what does this mean? Let me explain.

Stephen and I purchased our home in Dallington in February 2011, the day after the earthquake that changed everything – so not the best of timing. Living in Dallington after the earthquakes was really hard. In the days and weeks afterward, people rallied. But as weeks turned into months and years it felt like nothing would change. After the red zone was announced, it was heartbreaking to watch our community being dismantled one home at a time. A breaking point for me was driving over the Dallington bridge one day and realising that the newly paved road no longer had driveway gaps for the houses that were slowly being removed.

It took me a some time to get my head above water, to look around and think about what I could do to help my community – it just seemed too big and overwhelming. Where to start? The issues seemed big, but the solutions might start with me and my neighbours – I wanted to follow the principle of “think global, act local”. So I got as local as I could, and joined the Dallington Residents Association. One of its objectives is to advocate for residents of Dallington, so the committee has put a lot of effort into understanding what our community’s needs are. In the two years since I’ve been Chair, we’ve run events, workshops, information sessions and drop in days – all to gather ideas from the community about what their big ideas and big issues are. It’s been a hugely rewarding role – I’ve met a lot of really great people and have a renewed love for the place I live.

I’ve also developed an appreciation for some of the big issues we face. Our people are feeling the loss of community assets – our schools and church, but we’ve also gained the beautiful asset of our red zone, and people have some big ideas about this. Annette, a member of the residents association committee lived in Dallington all her life before the earthquakes. Her grandmother grew up in Dallington, and so did her mother. Up until the clearances, Annette was living on the land passed down from her grandmother and mother. She was devastated to be forced to leave, and still comes back almost every day to tend the her former family garden. Last year, Annette and I applied to the land owner (LINZ) to take over this piece of land so that Annette can be recognised as the custodian of it. LINZ recently approved our Glenarm Gardens transitional project. It was a small thing that I did – submit an application and sign a contract, but it is huge for Annette – she’s been given back some of what she lost.

Something else that’s come up from listening to the community is that we don’t have a community meeting space. So we’ve joined with groups from Avondale and Burwood to form the Riverside Community Network and collectively we’ve been working on how we can get a community centre for our people. Working with people across the whole Burwood Ward has helped me better understand the needs of the wider East Christchurch. I love where I live and I want to see it thrive.

So that’s the why. Here’s the what…

Dallington sits within the Burwood Ward, and is represented by the Coastal-Burwood Community Board. The Board is made up of six elected members – two city Councillors (one each for Burwood and Coastal) and four community representatives (two each for Burwood and Coastal). The community board members are elected by the community to represent its interests, and to advocate for our community needs with the Christchurch City Council.

The Dallington Residents Association has worked closely with the elected members for Burwood to make sure they know about the things that matter to us. So I’ve been able to see up close how this system works, and how I can contribute to the decision-making that happens at the Board.

Here’s the thing. The current Burwood community board representative is not a local, and hasn’t been for a long time. I think that’s not good enough. It has been by walking, running, driving, shopping, living in my community that I have truly understood it. I’ve been through the same trials and tribulations as everyone around me, and I know how I can best be of service to them.

The election is in October. My job between now and then is to listen the needs of the Ward, and to introduce myself to them so that they understand why they would want to vote for me.

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