Why I’m the People’s Choice

The People’s Choice is the left-leaning political grouping, organised locally for local people. It is not the specifically aligned to the Labour Party, but includes candidates who are members of the Labour Party (and other left-aligned political parties).

I chose to run under the People’s Choice banner for a number of reasons:

  1. The People’s Choice policies align with my own views on how Council should engage with community, youth, iwi; and its approach to housing, transport, and the environment
  2. Having the support of a collective has been invaluable to me as an aspiring politician – I have had amazing encouragement and mentoring from my team. I am not sure how I would have navigated the whole process without my buddies there to help me along the way – particularly my running mates Glenn Livingstone (current Burwood Councillor) and Greg Sugrue (newbie candidate for Burwood like me)
  3. I went through a rigorous selection process for People’s Choice, as did my fellow candidates – we were put through our paces, and as a result we have a group of high-quality candidates who know their stuff, and know how to engage with their communities
  4. I am a member of the Labour Party, and I want to be really clear about that as a candidate – Labour’s values are my values

As the campaign has progressed, my opponents have specifically called out that they are “independent” and I am not, which in their minds makes them better candidates. But let’s work through the logic of that argument.

My politics are clear – you can go to the People’s Choice website and see what my policies on the various important local issues are. This doesn’t mean that I would blindly follow these policies without consideration for what is best for my Ward. They are a framework of principles that I can use to make good decisions, not a prescriptive list of “musts” to be rigidly adhered to.

The other argument I’ve heard from my opponents is that “politics should be kept out of the Community Board”. This baffles me. I am standing for political office, via an election. This is the definition of politics. I can only assume that what my opponents really mean is that central and local government politics should be kept separate. But the reality is that most candidates are aligned to a political party – we all vote in central government elections (I assume so anyway!). And I also know that some are members of other political parties. I just chose to be more upfront about my politics.

What surprises me the most is that my opponents have spent as much time complaining about the People’s Choice as they have explaining their own policies. To my opponents running for Community Board I say – read the People’s Choice policies and tell me (and your community) which of these you disagree with and why. Then we can talk.

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.