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Community-led development techniques explained

September 19th, 2014
[by David Armstrong]

Proven ways of bringing together "community, council and commerce" to jointly share decision-making and plans for the future were presented at a public meeting hosted by Vision Motueka last night.

An audience of 25 heard Steve Henry, a recent new resident of Motueka, tell of the group he worked with in Queenstown, called Shaping Our Future, and then discussed the extent to which this approach could work in Motueka.

For the past four years Shaping Our Future has undertaken extensive community consultation and has drawn together a broad range of interest groups to develop a "shared vision for success".

Although it is a community-led programme, it has the explicit backing of the Queenstown Lakes District Council and is chaired by the Mayor, Vanessa van Uden.

Steve explained how involving the council and the large powerful local businesses (particularly tourism operators) through a formal partnership agreement gave his group the mandate to seek and act on community visions and project ideas.

"The key is you need to create a vision of the future that everyone can buy into," he said, starting with the question: "For our town, what does success look like?"

The issue then is how to "harvest the ideas of the local people". It's about communities leading by developing and working towards their own vision, rather than just letting councils do everything and then wondering why it doesn't work, leading to whingeing and blaming.

Having drawn out the vision of the Queenstown Lakes people, Steve's group then set up community task forces to plan and enact the 'now' so that the future works out according to the shared vision.

Each task force centred around particular aspects of the overall vision and drew in people with those particular interests. The task forces, comprising between five and 50 people, then made recommendations to the steering group for voting on by residents.

Steve was convinced that it was better to work through projects one at a time and build momentum through "runs on the board", rather than to tackle one big visionary project in one hit.

The Shaping Our Future committee began when the 30 most influential people in the town were identified and invited to take part. Although some declined, there were enough people committed to the project to form an effective steering committee.

With funding provided, paid staff were appointed to organise and facilitate community forums, which began the process that has already led to several achievements, the main one being a long-overdue rationalisation and collaboration among tourism operators over use of resources.

The meeting ended with a long question and answer session in which people mainly asked how the Shaping Our Future model could be applied or modified for Motueka.


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