Porirua has become a ‘city of villages’ in the past decade as a result of the City Council’s Village Planning Programme. Since it started in 2003, we’ve had a huge growth in community democracy. There are now 14 residents groups talking to their neighbors, and giving the people in their village a say in things that they want in the village and the things that affect them.
I’ve been involved in village planning since I joined the Pukerua Bay Residents Association committee in 2008, and I know what it can do for a community. When you travel around our different villages, you can see what a combination of council money and community effort and initiative can do. It shows how you can leverage a relatively small amount of money for a big social benefit.
It’s an excellent template for how we can expand communities’ involvement in the important decisions that affect us, particularly day-by-day. The City Council isn’t “the city” — it’s the villages and the people who live in them that make the city. We need to find simple, quick, low-cost ways of involving residents in more decisions without having to use time-consuming consultation processes.
This needs to include young people. Children and young people are one of the City Council’s strategic priorities, and we’ve included them in our Village Planning consultation to get some great ideas. A group of young local skaters got the skate bowl rebuilt in Pukerua Bay in 2008, and we’ve had presentations from Pukerua Bay School students on what they want to see in the village. They are thoughtful and concerned and we need to listen to them more often.
I’m very focused on making communities stronger and more resilient by helping them build the relationships in them that mean neighbours can look after themselves and each other.