Community problem, community solutions

Tackling Poverty workshop looks at big questions in Gisborne.

Tackling Poverty workshop looks at big questions in Gisborne.

WORKING HARD: The full-day Tackling Poverty workshop began with talks on poverty from experts to give a national and then Gisborne perspective, before the participants split into groups to discuss local solutions to poverty. From left, Rowena Babbington, Roland Matthews, Linda Coulston, Maurice Alford, Zion Wesche and Felix Drissaer-Devine deep in discussion. Pictures by Liam Clayton.
FULL CIRCLE: Linda Coulston stands with Treasury's chief economist Girol Karacaoglu, holding a photo of her son Te Wai Coulston and Mr Karacaoglu. Former Gisborne District Youth Council members Mr Coulston and Caroline Simmonds attended the original workshop in Wellington in December last year and encouraged the organisers to bring it to Gisborne. Mr Coulston's sister Lucy also attended the Gisborne workshop. Picture by Liam Clayton
TACKLING POVERTY: While Gisborne's isolation has many disadvantages, its cohesion and community spirit make it a great place to try out innovative social ideas, says McGuiness Institute founder Wendy McGuinness (right). Nearly 60 people attended the Tackling Poverty workshop this week, run by the McGuiess Insitute and New Zealand Treasury. The participants worked together to identify causes and soltutions to poverty in the region. New Zealand Treasury's chief economist Girol Karacaoglu (left) and Victoria University senior law lecturer Dr Carwyn Jones (right) were on hand throughout the day to provide expert advice. Picture by Liam Clayton
McGuiness Institute founder Wendy McGuinness

A REVIEW of Gisborne’s social services, a “one-stop shop” for available services and a drug rehabilitation centre were among solutions presented by participants in a Tackling Poverty workshop in Gisborne.

Nearly 60 people attended the full-day workshop at the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club as part of a national roadshow organised by the McGuinness Institute and New Zealand Treasury.

Lucy Coulston, a Year 10 student at Gisborne Girls’ High, was the youngest attendee and the only school student.

She said the workshop opened her eyes and she was keen to she more young people to be involved in things like this.

“Hearing everyone’s point of views on poverty and how to address it was really interesting. It is very cool how the community has come together for a workshop like this.”

After listening to several guest speakers, including Treasury chief economist Dr Girol Karacaoglu and Victoria University senior law lecturer Dr Carwyn Jones, the participants identified particular groups in Gisborne vulnerable to poverty.

The participants then split into groups to discuss solutions that were presented at the end of the day. Key ideas to emerge included a local drug rehabilitation centre, a review of what social services were available, setting up a “one-stop shop” where people could access help they need easily, and more locally-based social infrastructure.

Potential for change

Wendy McGuinness, founder of the McGuinness Institute, was impressed by the solutions and saw huge potential for positive change in Gisborne.

The small size, isolation and integrated community provided opportunities that would be more difficult to implement in other parts of the country, she said.

“Gisborne has got a very kind and cohesive community; people who simply want to do things because they are the right thing. There is a real can-do attitude.

“Gisborne is like New Zealand on the world stage. It is small enough that we can actually try things out easily and provide innovative examples of what we can do in the rest of New Zealand.”
Review of social services

She particularly liked the idea of doing a review of the available social services, including for mental and social health, which could lead to a “one-stop shop” where people could register once and be given advice on the various agencies available.

“You could not do that in many other places in New Zealand given the sheer size and numbers. That is the policy opportunity and it could lead to funding support, but needs to remain community based, bottom-up.”

Lack of social infrastructure

Another concern that came out of the workshop was a lack of specific social infrastructure here.

Participants mentioned the closest drug rehabilitation centre was in Rotorua, and if a woman was sentenced to time in jail she must go to a prison in Auckland or Christchurch, completely removed from her whanau and support base.

“All the pieces of social infrastructure have to be in Gisborne. When things happen to you, you have to leave, but it is exactly the time you need support,” Ms McGuinness said.

In December last year, the McGuinness Institute ran its first Tackling Poverty workshop with New Zealand Treasury in Wellington.

The youth attendees, which included Gisborne’s Caroline Simmonds and Te Wai Coulston, urged them to take the workshop to the regions.

So far they have visited Queenstown, Manawatu, Rotorua, Gisborne and later this month will run two workshops in Northland.

“Tackling poverty has got to start in places like Gisborne,” Ms McGuinness said.

“To be fair, it has already started, based on hearing all of the ideas today.”

The next step is to “shine up and showcase” the ideas, and present them in a survey open to the Gisborne community before making them into a discussion paper.

Mayor Meng Foon closed the workshop, praising it for encouraging discussion about “tough” issues.

“We need to be talking about the things happening right in front of us, publicly, instead of behind the closed doors of our homes and organisations," he said.

A REVIEW of Gisborne’s social services, a “one-stop shop” for available services and a drug rehabilitation centre were among solutions presented by participants in a Tackling Poverty workshop in Gisborne.

Nearly 60 people attended the full-day workshop at the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club as part of a national roadshow organised by the McGuinness Institute and New Zealand Treasury.

Lucy Coulston, a Year 10 student at Gisborne Girls’ High, was the youngest attendee and the only school student.

She said the workshop opened her eyes and she was keen to she more young people to be involved in things like this.

“Hearing everyone’s point of views on poverty and how to address it was really interesting. It is very cool how the community has come together for a workshop like this.”

After listening to several guest speakers, including Treasury chief economist Dr Girol Karacaoglu and Victoria University senior law lecturer Dr Carwyn Jones, the participants identified particular groups in Gisborne vulnerable to poverty.

The participants then split into groups to discuss solutions that were presented at the end of the day. Key ideas to emerge included a local drug rehabilitation centre, a review of what social services were available, setting up a “one-stop shop” where people could access help they need easily, and more locally-based social infrastructure.

Potential for change

Wendy McGuinness, founder of the McGuinness Institute, was impressed by the solutions and saw huge potential for positive change in Gisborne.

The small size, isolation and integrated community provided opportunities that would be more difficult to implement in other parts of the country, she said.

“Gisborne has got a very kind and cohesive community; people who simply want to do things because they are the right thing. There is a real can-do attitude.

“Gisborne is like New Zealand on the world stage. It is small enough that we can actually try things out easily and provide innovative examples of what we can do in the rest of New Zealand.”
Review of social services

She particularly liked the idea of doing a review of the available social services, including for mental and social health, which could lead to a “one-stop shop” where people could register once and be given advice on the various agencies available.

“You could not do that in many other places in New Zealand given the sheer size and numbers. That is the policy opportunity and it could lead to funding support, but needs to remain community based, bottom-up.”

Lack of social infrastructure

Another concern that came out of the workshop was a lack of specific social infrastructure here.

Participants mentioned the closest drug rehabilitation centre was in Rotorua, and if a woman was sentenced to time in jail she must go to a prison in Auckland or Christchurch, completely removed from her whanau and support base.

“All the pieces of social infrastructure have to be in Gisborne. When things happen to you, you have to leave, but it is exactly the time you need support,” Ms McGuinness said.

In December last year, the McGuinness Institute ran its first Tackling Poverty workshop with New Zealand Treasury in Wellington.

The youth attendees, which included Gisborne’s Caroline Simmonds and Te Wai Coulston, urged them to take the workshop to the regions.

So far they have visited Queenstown, Manawatu, Rotorua, Gisborne and later this month will run two workshops in Northland.

“Tackling poverty has got to start in places like Gisborne,” Ms McGuinness said.

“To be fair, it has already started, based on hearing all of the ideas today.”

The next step is to “shine up and showcase” the ideas, and present them in a survey open to the Gisborne community before making them into a discussion paper.

Mayor Meng Foon closed the workshop, praising it for encouraging discussion about “tough” issues.

“We need to be talking about the things happening right in front of us, publicly, instead of behind the closed doors of our homes and organisations," he said.

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