Thursday, 22 October 2009

Desperate Need for Long Term Community Planning in Blueskin Bay

By Geraldine Tait

Three projects are being developed in parallel in the Blueskin Bay
area to build community facilities. These are: a new library in
Waitati (an extension to the Supper room), Toy Library space at the
Warrington Hall and a youth facility on Bland Park, Waitati. These
projects will incorporate an indoor sports area, youth group meeting
space, a new Play Centre and Toy Library rooms.

It doesn't take much common sense to realise this is a large number of
projects for one small community; with the associated fund-raising,
project development and time commitment needed to make them a success.
I am sure each one of them individually has a huge amount of merit.
However, I have alarm bells ringing loudly in my head right now. I am
very concerned that none of the groups proposing these projects has
adequately consulted the local community. Yes - some consultation has
occurred but to get community backing and good will there is a need
for much more comprehensive consultation.

I would like to challenge the whole community to take a step back and
undertake some serious research to obtain a really good profile of who
lives here and what their needs are. The 2006 census can provide some
useful information about the family structures, income and employment
in our community. This would be a good starting point.

What is the future age demographic likely to be? What are the key
services and organisations in Blueskin Bay, how well are they catered
for and what other services or facilities do we need to benefit the
future health and economic well-being of local people? We need to
consider the security of services such as our local shop and postal
depot, which is going to be moved when the road is realigned. How well
do we know the transport needs of local people? What particular
transport problems are there now or will there be in the future? What
effect has the growth of a large number of lifestyle blocks in our
area had and how well have these families integrated into our
community? What will be the effect of the new Eco-sanctuary? What
extra services will we need (e.g. public Toilets) and what business
opportunities will arise? Are the provision of halls, playgrounds, and
footpaths adequate? Do services for children such as schools and
preschools, meet the needs of local families? A challenge for these
services is to maintain healthy roles - are parents choosing to take
their children into town because there are no adequate childcare
facilities locally for working parents?

Research to produce a comprehensive community profile should be done
before we commit to any of the proposed new projects. This will be
helpful when sourcing funding. We need to show we have a good
understanding of our community structure and the services needed. Once
we know a lot more about our community, its services and needs then
consultation could begin for specific projects.

What is effective consultation?

Consultation is not just asking for feedback on an already completed
plan - it needs to start way before any decisions are made and it
should have several stages.

Primary consultation is an information gathering phase, which should
attempt to engage as broad a cross section of the community as
possible. This could be done through a letterbox drop to inform people
about the issue to be consulted on and inviting them to get involved.
It's important to identify the groups who are most affected by the
issue. For example if it's an issue such as youth facilities, the key
groups might be: local schools and preschools, parents, teachers,
sports and welfare groups and of course young people themselves. A
survey asking appropriate questions to find out how many people have
an involvement in the issue presently and in the future, what their
needs are and ideas about how to address the issue. The information
gathered needs to be summarised before moving on to the next phase.

Secondary consultation starts with the development of proposals, which
are firmly based on the primary feedback. If there are a wide variety
of views, then a range of possible solutions should be offered. The
whole community needs to be kept informed through the newsletter or a
letterbox drop. Key groups should be contacted and a public meeting
could be held to explain the options and help gauge local feeling.
Focus groups might also be used to get more in-depth opinions.

The Final Stage involves assessing all the feed-back from the
secondary consultation and deciding what the majority want,
particularly the target group. The community will be informed of the
preferred option. At this time a committee can be formed to take this
option forward, a wide cross-section of relevant groups need to be
represented on the committee, so that no particular faction controls
the project. Broad and active consultation should bring the community
in behind a project, raise enthusiasm and lead to a successful

From and 'Blueskin News' published by Blueskin Media:
voluntary/non-profit community publishers in Blueskin Bay (Seacliff,
Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
All material sent to or published by us is "copyleft" in the public
domain and may be freely shared, archived, re-edited and republished.
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