Buller District Council

LGNZ Conference 2019 – Wellington. “Localism”By Emily Miazga, BDC Councillor

2nd August, 2019

This was my first time attending an LGNZ conference, and was a little green in terms of what to expect and what it was all about. I was privileged to be attending on behalf of BDC along with our CEO Sharon Mason, Group Manager Community Services, Rachel Townrow, and fellow Councillor Shayne Barry.

Sharon, Shayne and I flew up early Saturday morning which was a little early due to flights not being available Sunday. Having Saturday in Wellington gave us an opportunity to take in a big walk, visit Te Papa Museum, do a big yoga session, and then enjoy a nice dinner together and prepare for the next 2.5 days of conference presentations.

Figure 1 Shayne decided to take a short-cut, straight uphill!

The conference kicked off Sunday midday with the Local Government NZ National AGM. So Shayne and I had time to do a morning “power-walk” in the Botanical Gardens. Now we were refreshed and ready for the day!

The AGM was like a council meeting but on a much larger scale including all NZ Councils! We had a wee beeper for voting which made us feel like we were on the “price is right”. There were 24 “remits” to vote on and we were pleased to be on the winning side of all votes, bar one. The remits ranged from prohibiting parking on grass berms (thankfully lost), lobbying for the banning of private use of fireworks (won), lobbying for beauty industry regulations (won – safe waxing for all!), funding of additional research into the effects of nitrates in drinking water (won by 95%) and inclusion of local government representation at all levels of policy development, technical risk and resilience assessment, and data acquisition on climate change (won by 100%).

After the AGM there were opening ceremonies with a strong Maori address which was inspiring and empowering. This was followed by an address by Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern, LGNZ president’s address by Dave Cull, Te Maruata address by Bonita Bigham, opening keynote by Hon Dame Turiana Turia, and a welcome by Jonathan Salter from Simpson Grierson, who was basically plugging the free drinks to follow at Te Papa. By then we were ready for something stiff! The cocktails on offer were not appealing so we opted for wine. I tried finding Tim Shadbolt because I’ve wanted to meet him (I’m a fan), but alas it was not to be. Instead we met some amazing women in local government, namely Alex Walker, Mayor of Central Hawkes Bay and who was speaking on Monday, and Bonita Bigham who has a huge heart and expressed interest in visiting Buller! Go the wahine!

We wandered through the streets of Wellington looking for somewhere special to eat, but 3 tired ladies are not the most decisive restaurant choosers. In the end CEO Sharon made the executive decision and Indian it was. By the time we walked back to our hotel it’s fair to say we were tired.

Monday’s talks:

Localism – No. 8 wire fixes to NZ’s challenges

Alex Walker, Mayor Central Hawkes Bay

“Shut up and listen!” – Ted Talk to look up on Google.

T – Trust
H – Honesty
R – Respect
I – Innovation
V – Valuing people
E – Excellence

She said we must engage community at every level. They went out and asked the people, “What does thriving look like to you?”

Listen to the people, because they know. They worked from the micro-level of villages of 100 people to their larger towns, doing community plans.

Listen – Empower – Create Change

Dr. Lance O’Sullivan, Moko Foundation

He discussed transforming desperation into disruption and putting communities in charge. He shared his personal story of growing up as a “half-cast” (his father was Maori and his mother Irish-pakeha) and discussed how destructive poverty of wealth, poverty of spirit and poverty of culture create major problems.

Sexism – Classism – Racism

He went on to discuss some health initiatives he is involved with that include a digital health aid iMoko, which is an assessment tool that anyone can administer, such as teachers and whanau. This will help capture kids that are slipping through the existing health care system, one which Dr. O’Sullivan thinks needs major re-vamping by way of linking DHB’s with local government, and MSD. He believed these should be “all one”, otherwise each entity just hides and passes the buck, to the detriment of the care of the people, especially Maori. He said if we don’t act, that the likes of Google and Amazon will do what he is proposing.

INNOVATION →→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→→  DISRUPTION

Small change                                                                                                     Make old ideas obsolete

Localism – What’s your natural advantage?                                    

Phil O’Reilly, Managing Director, Iron Duke Partners

There needs to be alignment between the business community and local government. This is not uniform, because business can range from large multi-nationals to sole-traders, however there are some broad generalisations that can be made…

  • What does business want from local government?
    • Liveability – a place where talent wants to LIVE!
    • Other basics such as ease of doing business, basic services and infrastructure
    • Listen and debate
  • Business perceptions of local government
    • Councils are “business-agnostic”
  • Business foibles
    • Blames local government for things outside of its control, i.e. NZTA, RMA, infrastructure costs
    • “Bigger is better” i.e. amalgamations
    • Compliance with broken government legislation
  • What can be done?
    • Decrease commercial rates
    • Build competence
    • Provide value for money
    • Link amenities with talent acquisition and retention
    • Build networks and engage with the business community
    • Have a plan of attack together
  • Local government funding reform
    • Align funding with what we want from local government
    • Current funding is a direct disincentive to growth and innovation
    • Needs to be NZ-specific to cater to our diverse population
  • Signals to send
    • Growth and regeneration are good (to the extent that resources allow!)
    • Innovation – Capability
    • Imaginative decisions closer to communities is a good idea
  • Funding options
    • Offshore investors
    • Iwi
    • KiwiSaver funds

Climate change – A stitch in time

John Munro, Auckland Chief Sustainability Officer


  1. Integrate
  2. Innovate
  3. Include
  4. Invest

Look at new evidence locally for a national approach, and plan for the future based on evidence. And include new collaboration, new events, i.e. huge conference in Auckland, new platforms and new partnerships, i.e. Iwi.

Sophie Handford and Raven Maeder, School Strike for Climate

Key message: NEED bold and visionary leadership

Give youth some power in the conversation

Climate justice is linked with inequality in society, so need to address these issues hand-in-hand

James Palmer, CEO Hawkes Bay Regional Council

There is a differential between the poles and the equator, and this directly affects the seasons. But the poles are changing faster than the equator, so…

We had predictable seasons from ~7000 years ago enabling civilisation to develop.

Stability of the seasons and climate is central to who we are.

Who should pay? Local and central government, and private.

Driving resilience – plant-out, work with farmers, reduce emissions, make buildings efficient.

Urban development strategy should reduce emissions via improving transport and housing stock.

Climate change emergency – we are WAY off-track. Our per capita emissions are WAY high. Planning and funding are urgent. Synergies between urban growth, water quality, planting, etc. We must double-down on efforts.

Parliamentary Opposition’s Address, Hon Jacqui Dean, National Party, Waitaki, Local Government Opposition Spokesperson


Have you drunk the central government Kool-Aid?

Paul Eagle, Labour

Chloe Swarbrick, Greens

Lawrence Yule, National

This was an interview style-talk which was basically the 3 parties debating policy, but the key messages I got were:

  • Local government is going to need to confront the cost of dealing with climate change challenges, i.e. zero-carbon bill
  • Path to localism is going to need more respectful and mutually trusting relationship between central and local governments in order for localism to work
  • MP’s need to show up locally
  • 4-well-beings
  • Learn to leverage better

Minister of Local Government Address, Hon Nanaia Mahuta

One reed is weak and breaks, but many bound together is strong

Housing and building in NZ – can we fix it?

Justin Lester, Wellington Mayor

Decision making directly affects housing in NZ, so we can change it!

Adrian Orr, Governor of the Reserve Bank of NZ

A lot of work to do to attain prosperity.

We need a simple shift to long-term thinking, but this is very hard to put into practice.

Well-being Walkshops – Social, Economic, Environmental, Cultural

Emily attended the Economic well-being walkshop which was a workshop at Wellington’s Creative HQ. CHQ is a business incubator. Basically they help new businesses get established, as well as support existing businesses. Their clients range from start-ups to larger multi-nationals. Creative HQ is a break-even, Council-Controlled Trading Organisation entity which I found intriguing. The smaller businesses get support for free, but the larger companies pay the bills. However aren’t CCTO’s supposed to provide a monetary return to their Council? I kind of knew the answer to this question but I asked anyway, and yes, as I thought, the Council considers Creative HQ as a public service and the return they get is the success and economic input from the businesses that pass through the door. How awesome! I couldn’t help but compare Creative HQ to EPIC in Westport, and fantastically, we are on their radar for collaborating. Watch this space!

Sharon attended the social workshop which had a focus on social housing in urban areas, Andrew McKenzie CEO, Housing NZ spoke on the partnership arrangement with Wellington regional council to address social housing concerns in the CBD. The group were then taken on a tour of a social housing section which has been built on the outskirts of the CBD which is creating low cost housing options for families and low paid workers. The session was very much geared to urban city with acknowledgement that future consideration needs to be given to rural provincial New Zealand, pragmatically the burgeoning urban areas where the critical population mass exits will be addressed first.

Rachel attended the environmental workshop, held at Zealandia – the world’s first fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary. Zealandia was created with a 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225-hectare eco-sanctuary is a ground breaking conservation project that has reintroduced over 20 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. The site includes former reserve land, and Wellington City Council has been a long-time supporter of the project. It is managed by Karori Sanctuary Trust, a not-for-profit community-led organisation. Jim Lynch, originator of the concept and founder of the Trust talked about turning the vision into reality and the importance of working collaboratively throughout both the development and the ongoing operation (something that was echoed by CEO Paul Atkins). Paul Stanley Ward from Capital Kiwi and Celia Wade-Brown from Predator Free Wellington (a joint project between Wellington’s city and regional councils and the NEXT Foundation) talked about the work being done to make Wellington suburbs predator free and the aim of bringing native birds, including kiwi, back into the ‘backyards’ of Wellington. A long-time Wellington resident and current City Councillor mentioned that they were 20 years old before they first saw a tui. This was a great reminder of just how lucky we are in Buller to have our native flora and fauna so close by (and in some cases already in our backyards). A walk around Zealandia followed, where we met these two:

Figure 2 Friendly takahē at Zealandia

Fulton Hogan Conference Dinner and LGNZ Excellence Awards

After a pretty full day of the conference we were ready to let our hair down! I literally got back from my Walkshop at 6:08pm and miss Military-time CEO Sharon texted to say we were meeting at 6:30pm to head to the dinner. Time to move! I put my feet up for 10 minutes, changed into a dressy frock and off we went! The dinner and awards ceremony were pretty special I must say. Beforehand, we got a chance to mingle and I had the good fortune of chatting to Dave Cull, President of LGNZ. I was very proud to tell him how as a Council we feel we are in a really healthy place after a term of turmoil and challenges. The conference had served as a bit of a barometer for us, to give us a feel for what we’ve been doing as a Council to be better, and what we aspire to do. Getting a reality check on how we’re tracking as a Council was cool to take a moment and reflect on, but we still have a long way to go and no one is resting on their laurels.

Figure 3 Cr Shayne Barry, CEO Sharon Mason, Snr Mgr. Rachel Townrow, Cr Emily Miazga

Tuesday’s talks:

Managing fresh water – best practice, breakthroughs in innovation and barriers

Doug Leeder, Chair LGNZ Regional Sector

Urban – multiple uses (storm, grey, houses, wastewater)

Rural – storage issues, quality issues, intensification of land use

The Problem: Nitrates – 44mg/L = level in rivers whilst 11mg/L = blue baby syndrome

Health of the water reflects the health of the nation – Te Mana o Te Wai

3 Obligations:

  1. Water itself – ecological, quality, quantity
  2. Essential human health
  3. Provide for other uses without compromising 1 and 2

Intrinsic values – like, look, feel

Substantive values – science

  • Nitrogen is naturally occurring and necessary, but the use of urea pushes it too high
  • Phosphorus, as above, phosphates upsets the balance
  • Sediments, as above, erosion upsets the balance
  • Overuse/abuse of the above = contamination of waterways!

Solution – the metrics that will be applied – timeline

Need a culture change in terms of these water attributes

Farmer → Urban → All of us

Terry Copeland, CEO Federated Farmers

98% of water goes out to sea, only 2% used

Water is both a “blessing and a curse”

Modify farming systems

What are famers doing? Variable irrigation, measuring, targeted fertilisation, alternate cropping, Nitrogen-fixing ryegrass.

Farmers’ concerns

  • Zero-carbon bill and 1 billion trees, etc. “policies not thought out”
  • Farmers not involved in talks
  • National standards over-ride regional planning processes
  • Compliance cost

Farmers propose

  • Local planning, working with community, wants some credit, good manufacturing practice
  • Environmental plans to be effective
  • Current investment in land/infrastructure; allow fair time for transition
  • Up-to-date national monitoring to track progress

Geoff Simmons, Leader of The Opportunities Party

90% – 98% of water runs out to sea, but “It’s a river!!!” That is what it’s meant to do.

When the environment flips, it just does it and there’s nothing that can be done. It’s like going grey, no matter how much yoga you do and green smoothies you have, you can’t stop it.

There is increasing scarcity, and scarcity interacts directly with quality.

The solution is a regulated market model, such as with the fish industry, which improved once regulated.

Need to deal with Maori rights upfront.

When you issue water rights, you put risk into the hands of the user. Water rights could be traded or sold, like fishing rights.

All commercial players should be paying for rights to use water; the technology is there, i.e. blockchain.

Out of the Shadows

Natalie Palmer, Communication and Engagement Manager, Hamilton City Council

Engagement vs. Consultation – 10 Tips to live by

  1. Be adventurous
  2. Think big
  3. Be bold – license to be creative and challenge the status quo, think innovatively, opportunity before cost, intent speaks volumes, be visible by traditional media but use new technology too, needs to be accessible for all, so blend both off- and online worlds
  4. Go to the people – people care about their surroundings, use public events, after-school and open days as ways to reach people
  5. Be genuine – make an effort so people can have their say in a way that suits them! i.e. public forum is NOT welcoming. It is intimidating
  6. Be inclusive – don’t use jargon or patronise. Include young people
  7. Let it go – treat community as partners. This can be uncomfortable (to let go of control), so let it go, i.e. participatory budgeting gives people real power over real money (BDC Revitalisation fund – no one else is doing this)
  8. Tie the bow – Little things matter. Communicate back
  9. Keep on going
  10. Be brave

Creating change: inspiring leadership in local communities

Colin T Ellis, author and public speaker from working in government (this guy was a trip!!)

Just because you’re elected, it does not make you a leader.

Good leaders inspire and make you feel good. Bad leaders degrade you.

You’ve got to be the best version of yourself, and bring out the best in others.

Real change requires you to do things differently. Anyone ever quit smoking? Is it easy?

BTW 71% of millennials do not trust politicians…

Emotional Intelligence

  1. Self-awareness – know what you’re good at and what you’re not
  2. Make a mistake? Own it! Learn from mistakes
  3. Control emotions regardless of the situation – we don’t always get it right and not be our best selves, so see point #2
  4. Great listeners – only 2% are taught how to listen. Don’t just rush to solutions
  5. Facilitate effective conversations – not over email
  6. Empathy – understand the emotions of other people. Need to understand different personalities and how they prefer to be communicated with

Culture is the sum of everyone. And passion led us here.

Culture is not something you “are”, it’s something you “DO”.

Culture Model

X Stagnant – bad ☹

X Pleasant – bad ☹

X Combatant – bad ☹

Ö VIBRANT – good 😊

Where are we right now? What do we need to do? Personally, and as a group? Just do 1 thing at a time.

Check out the book “Mindset”.

After Colin finished talking, we were all feeling pretty pumped. This guy’s energy was contagious! I spoke with him after and asked how he managed his public speaking persona and high-energy with keeping balanced. This kind of public speaking can really sap it out of you. He said he is “on – on – on”, but then when he gets away by himself, he needs time to become quiet and reserved, and needs this to fuel his jets. I found this interesting and very relatable!

This was the close of the conference and we were all very hungry! We headed to the waterfront for lunch. We found this rustic place that was smack on the wharf with a lovely outlook onto that calming and peaceful, intrinsic water. The light shone off it as we also shined and reflected on the last couple days’ learnings. I wish I could have taken a snapshot of the feeling, of the collaboration between councillors, CEO and staff. We were as ONE TEAM, and when I say “we” I am referring to the organisation as a whole, not any one individual. It was a lovely feeling as we brainstormed about how we could make Buller better, make ourselves better and hopefully make a difference for the better. Almost at the same time, we all said how we felt like we were just sitting in Westport, on the waterfront enjoying a yummy lunch and the reflection on the Kawatiri.



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