Locally-driven civics: talanoa-wānanga and citizens’ assembly on climate change

Another of the many great local things to light up your pre-election world

Every pre-election season it’s easy to feel a bit disempowered, as the Heavy Hitters make grand gestures about how they’ll change our country.

It’s worth remembering that whatever the flavour of central government, the most meaningful and tangible changes come locally. Driven by regular people, organising and channelling local energy to improve the places they live.

You’ve read one from Wainuiomata, now here’s one in Porirua that’s lighting up our world this September…

You may’ve heard about Wellington City Council’s citizens’ assembly initiative but out in Porirua they’ve been into it since before it was cool! The Porirua talanoa-wānanga initiative is an innovation driven by Ngāti Toa in partnership with Pasifika communities, and supported by climate change civics group Te Reo o Nga Tangata – The People Speak. But, importantly, it’s independent from support of government, there are just some observers from central and local government.

It’s early days but it promises to significantly enhance the civics landscape of Porirua – in other words: who’s in conversations that make change; what kind of conversations happen; how decisions are made. It’s part of a dual talanoa-wānanga approach that’s drawing on the best of tikanga Māori, tikanga Pākehā and tikanga Pasifika. The Future For Local Government Review highlighted the obvious fact that this kind of innovation is exactly what we need in New Zealand. We can use these things – along with a suite of other improvements like those suggested here – and we can make our democracy much better.

Finally, the focus on climate change is really great: it’s a crucially important topic – but one which often brings out our worse selves when we’re discussing it.

Justin Wong has done a nice piece covering the Porirua talanoa-wānanga. Watch this space: hopefully a steady, slow growth will see these kinds of innovations advance sustainably and become permanent features of our civic landscape.

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