RA submission to Porirua City Council on its 10-year plan

The Residents Association made the following submission to Porirua City Council on its 10-year plan up to 2023.

The increased costs ratepayers are now expected to pay for necessary work in the city are a direct consequence of the approach of previous councils to keep rate increases as low as possible by not investing in infrastructure. This same error has come back to bite councils across the country, and we hope that has changed the approach PCC will take in the future. We understand this might be unpopular with ratepayers, but there are important intergenerational equity issues in this, and councils cannot continue to ‘kick the can down the road’ for any longer.

Water strategy

We agree with PCC’s plans to prioritise funding for water infrastructure. We are all aware of the number of leaks around the city – many of us have had leaks near our own properties and know how long it can take to get them fixed and the damage this can cause. Given the high cost, it seems prudent to focus on maintenance rather than building new infrastructure.

Water meters

We support the introduction of water meters for all properties in Porirua. They are a proven water conservation tool. We acknowledge there will be a cost to those properties that do not have them, but at $352 each, that should be affordable if spread across a couple of years in the rates bill. Ratepayers are already paying for the loss of water, so implementing a conservation tool should be money well spent.

Water meters also provide an opportunity for PCC to introduce a more equitable charging regimen so that the cost to ratepayers is more aligned with household usage.

Kerbside rubbish and recycling collections

In principle we agree with option 1, but with some modifications. We support the kerbside sorting of glass, particularly if it can separate the clear glass, which is almost worthless, from the green and brown glass that can be recycled.

The proposal seems to be for a one-size-fits-all approach for rubbish and recycling collections. The increase in rates for rubbish collections is slightly more than the cost of one black bag a week. However, some households produce very little waste, use fewer than one bag a week (or even one a month), and therefore pay much less than $240 a year to have PCC collect their rubbish. There should be flexibility in the system to allow them to continue to save money on waste disposal, and to provide an incentive for other households to also choose to save money. In other words, the new bin system should not cost them more than they are paying now.

In addition, we note that, as mentioned on your website at https://poriruacity.govt.nz/services/rubbish-and-recycling/spicer-landfill/spicer-landfill-development/, Spicer Landfill is running out of room. One obvious way to mitigate this is to encourage people to put less waste in their general recycling. However, if everybody has no option but to pay every week for a rubbish collection, they are not incentivised to avoid filling their bin up every week. This is likely to result in substantially more waste going to landfill than is currently the case, where households have a financial incentive to produce less waste.

Village Planning

We were disappointed, but not surprised, to see that PCC has decided to stop funding the Village Planning Programme. It seems to us that PCC has been excessively focused on the Capex funding aspect of the Village Planning Programme, taken a deficit thinking approach to what needs to be ‘fixed’ with the programme, and ignored its community development value.

Village Planning has enabled communities to identify the things they value and develop a vision for what they want their neighbourhoods to be like. The PBRA – like many other residents associations and village planning groups – has told PCC and its consultants that what we value the most is the support we have received from PCC staff in preparing our plans and putting them into action. This was a strong message at the workshop in August 2022.

The Village Plans, which have been the result of widespread consultation with the community, have given us invaluable information on where the community can focus its activities. This is an important part of empowering communities to create the place they want to live in. In fact, Village Planning is an excellent example of placemaking, which is an approach where people work together to make places better, not only for themselves, but for others and for the place itself. (See below for an explanation of this.)

It should therefore be a key part of the council’s strategic priority to give everybody in Porirua a “great village and city experience” https://poriruacity.govt.nz/your-council/city-planning-and-reporting/our-strategic-priorities/porirua-village-experience/. Village Planning particularly feeds into the following outcomes:

  • Safe, active and healthy communities
  • Genuine participation in city decisions.

Village Plans have included many projects and initiatives that were not ones that PCC should be expected to fund. In fact, many of them didn’t require much money, and there are other sources of funding for community projects. PCC should not be required to fund them all. However, the support of council staff has been invaluable for implementing many of the initiatives identified in the plans.

It seems that councillors and many staff have been focused on Capex because that is what they see in the budget. We know that it has been difficult for some communities to spend the money allocated in the VP budget. There have also been instances of VP money being spent on BAU projects that should have been funded from other Opex or Capex budgets; two in Pukerua Bay are the pedestrian access along the middle section of Muri Road and the shared pathway along SH59 between Teihana Road and Wairaka Road. There has often been too much emphasis on building things rather than building communities.

Connected communities are more resilient communities and this is something that is going to be useful as climate change brings extreme weather events and communities like Pukerua Bay have to respond to ‘managed retreat’ coastal issues.

We ask PCC to maintain a Village Planning Programme, and focus its contribution more on skilled staff supporting and empowering communities, rather than predominantly on funding Capex projects. Below are the original principles and objectives of the Village Planning Programme and a description of ‘placemaking’, which describe what should be the basis and focus for an ongoing Village Planning Programme:

Village Planning Programme Principles

These are the principles that Council applies within the Village Planning Programme. 

Communities, Council and other parties work in partnership to identify and achieve solutions to community issues. The skills and knowledge that each group brings to this process are valued. The process aims to enhance relationships both within and between groups.

Community driven:
Community members are active participants who identify their vision for their community and the ways to achieve it. They then work to improve their place though collective action and collaboration with other groups and organisations. Village plans are community documents. Council provides guidance about the process for developing plans and what they might contain; communities determine the content.

Village plans reflect a broad consultation process within the community with community members being given a range of opportunities to participate and contribute to village planning.

Flexible and community specific:
The programme recognises the unique characteristics of each community and is structured to allow for flexibility so that each community can determine actions and approaches that are appropriate to them.

Local control:
There are many things that communities have always ‘just got on with’. The programme aims to enhance and encourage local community action. It should not inhibit decision making on issues that can be determined at the local level.

There are many things that communities have always ‘just got on with’. The programme aims to enhance and encourage local community action. It should not inhibit decision making on issues that can be determined at the local level.

The Council works in good faith with communities this includes: 

  • Council being transparent about what it can and can’t do within the village planning process. 
  • Council being up-front in the early stages of planning regarding the on-going implications of projects for Council and the community e.g. maintenance costs, on-going voluntary commitment.

Village Planning Programme Objectives

The objectives (aims) of the Village Planning Programme are:

  1. To assist local communities in setting a strategic direction and priorities to be implemented in partnership with Council and other agencies.
  2. To ensure Council’s city-wide strategies and plans are informed by the visions and priorities of local communities.
  3. To enable Council to provide services and fund projects which recognise and enhance the unique characteristics of the city’s geographic communities.
  4. To foster constructive working relationships between Councillors, local residents, local agencies and Council staff.
  5. To encourage and inspire community engagement — leadership, volunteer input and action in order to achieve the community’s vision for their local area.
  6. To enhance an on-going sense of community ownership of local facilities, services etc.

What is placemaking?

Placemaking is an approach where people work together to make places better, not only for themselves but for others and for the place itself. Placemaking:

  • Is place sourced, culture-led, and community-fed.
  • Is inclusive and participatory.
  • Helps people express aroha, connection to their places, and in turn to each other.
  • Forges strong kaupapa/purpose.
  • Fosters learning by doing.
  • Values local knowledge and the lived experience of everyday people as well as their expertise.
  • Benefits everyone in a neighbourhood when places and people thrive together.
  • Involves people working together in place to make things better, for others and the place itself, now and into the future
  • It uplifts the mana/strength & mauri/spirit of communities, making them stronger and healthier: environmentally, culturally, socially and economically.

(Taken from PCC’s own report to Council on the review of the Village Planning Programme, 2 June 2022.)