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A Community led project

May 9, 2022 May 2022 No Comments

The Waiohine River Plan is a document that should draw the attention of anyone that has even a slight interest in local government wherever their location.

Recently adopted by Greater Wellington Regional Council on 7 April, this plan has its roots back in the late 1990s when investigations on the Waiohine flood hazard first began. 

 It is however, not its long gestation period that makes it special nor is it the format, designed to be read on-line with links to other relevant documents and easy to update as the Plan evolves.  What makes this plan unique is how it was written and how this might apply to other community projects.

You see The Waiohine River Plan was truly a community lead project.  Those responsible for it were Greytown people, picked by the town at a public meeting and given the mandate to get on with the job.  A previous GW Flood Management Plan had been rejected by the public as being too expensive and they tasked this new group to come up with a better idea.

With great enthusiasm the Project Team set forth on a journey expected to take five to six months.  Just over five years later their plan made it out to public consultation.  It had not been an easy ride.  Some would say it was like a road full of potholes, others a crocodile laden swamp or perhaps digging an elephant’s grave with a teaspoon. 

 Nevertheless, they had stuck with it and delivered a plan that met the terms of reference and they believed had the support of the majority.  They had worked incredibly hard, challenged GWRC’s assumptions, called in other experts to advise them and questioned council procedures.  It was a very transparent process.

So are community lead projects the way of the future for local government?

There is no doubt that any project run by the community for the community is likely to have better support than one sponsored solely by a council.  The challenge is encouraging those with the right skills to give up their time and have the determination needed to see things through to the end.  

Most are already time poor just trying to live their lives. From the Greytown experience it seems to me that a hybrid model may be more sustainable, making greater use of community expertise but with council support to ensure people know what outcome to expect and are not driven out by the workload.

It is common today to hear calls for more transparency in local government and community lead projects are certainly one way of delivering this if you are up for the challenge.  Are they right for every situation?  Probably not.

Adrienne Staples

Highlight: What makes this plan unique is how it was written and how this might apply to other community projects.

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