Log In

Reset Password

Push for Gisborne 'demarcation zone'

MENG Foon has joined the mayors of Rotorua and Far North in lobbying the Government for “demarcation zones” in their provinces, with local decision-making powers concerning government department functions.

Mr Foon is also calling for lower taxes in a Tairawhiti special economic zone.

The McGuinness Institute research foundation says under the demarcation model, welfare, health, education, employment and policing would be decentralised in the three areas by empowering local officials and/or establishing a board of people who reside in the area.

Mr Foon said the mayors were concerned at the prevalence of low incomes, drugs, alcohol, and entrenched inter-generational poverty and dependency, despite the best efforts of government departments over decades.

He, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick and Far North mayor John Carter, both former MPs, met with then Deputy Prime Minister Bill English about two months ago.

“He was open to suggestions for local solutions,’’ said Mr Foon.

“He is concerned about social matters in our regions and his door is open to a local plan.’’

The mayors all support the idea of “our regions thinking up local solutions for local matters”.

“I have also been advocating for a special economic zone in our region,’’ said Mr Foon.

“We want a lower tax rate and total depreciation on capital investments in the first year.”

Mr Foon has called unsuccssfully for lower taxes in Tairawhiti in the past.

“These two essential policy changes will enable our community and business to invest and create more jobs in our region.

“It is a game-changer for our region.

“Our average GDP is $35,000.

“The New Zealand GDP per person sits at $52,000.

“We have a lot of catching up to do.’’

Mr Foon said social sector trials had showed such objectives worked.

“Like, for instance, the trial of bussing students from Kaiti to Gisborne high schools.

“Unfortunately, this came from Gisborne District Council funding.

“It should be funded by the Government.”

Mr Foon said entrenched poverty was related to a systemic problem with dependency.

“I would love for us to change that so that each one of us who is dependant can become independant.

“I know that Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou is doing good work.”

Deputy Mayor Rehette Stoltz sat on the Manaaki Tairawhiti Governance Group on behalf of the council to discuss such issues and “to give us solutions,” said Mr Foon.

Manaaki Tairawhiti — established in September — is a group of local iwi and social cross-sector leaders who aim to build on the “high level of collaboration” in the community to improve agencies frustrated by a “confused clutter of programmes and initiatives with complex governance arrangements”.

A spokeswoman for Manaaki Tairawhiti said her group and the tackling poverty initiative, which emerged from McGuinness Institute and the three mayors, had not yet discussed how their work would align.

Mr Foon said the goal of creating long-term solutions with local people making decisions did not mean more money coming to Tairawhiti.

“It means local people deciding on the priorities and owning the decision- making process for our community.

“This is a huge paradigm shift in terms of Government thinking — they have small trials, but they are never long-lasting enough to have long-term benefits.”

Mr Foon said he had been influenced by the McGuinness Institute forum held in Gisborne in late August aimed at tackling poverty.

Many organisations from NGOs, government departments and individuals spent a day articulating solutions.

“There were lots of positive ideas and simple ideas.’’

The Wellington-based institute had provided the idea of demarcation zones based on the successful special economic zones in parts of China, such as Shenzhen.

Mr Carter told the New Zealand Herald he supported demarcation zones in their districts to try new ideas in welfare, health, education, employment and policing.

Ms Chadwick said she had asked Social Development Minister Anne Tolley to devolve social services funding to a local leadership group that she has already set up with the local heads of government agencies and the Lakes District Health Board.

Social investment “place-based approaches” have already been started in Northland, led by the Education Ministry, in Gisborne led by Mrs Tolley’s Social Development Ministry and in South Auckland led by the State Services Commission.

A McGuinness Institute demarcations policy paper presented to Mr English in December said the three mayors were respected in their communities.

“If they are allowed to work at their own pace, with robust reporting rather than ongoing interference, we believe they will be able to develop initiatives that meet the needs of their community and model new ways of making change.

“The status quo is not acceptable.”