Chairman’s Report 2016

On behalf of the trustees of the North East Community Hub (legally titled the Hamilton North East Community Development Trust), I welcome you to our annual AGM. A warm welcome to you all and a special welcome to our dignitaries.

We are fortunate to be meeting at the wonderful new Rototuna Junior High School library. I thank Principal Fraser Hill for making this facility available to us. After the official business we will hear from Fraser as our guest speaker.

In this report I will discuss what the Trust has achieved in the past 12 months and what we would like to do in the months ahead.

First of all, to set context in which we are working.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the North East Community Hub, we arose out of a Trust which ran a number of ambitious and successful community events over a five-year period. The team put in a phenomenal effort. Regrettably, it was an effort that was to prove unsustainable.

When our group first met this time last year, we decided to take a different approach. We changed our name to something simpler – North East Community Hub (or NECH). Our communications trustee Katy King, with assistance from local graphic artist Sara Cameron, produced our new logo and went on to establish the NECH Facebook page and website.

We established that we had two main tasks:

The first task was to lobby Hamilton City Council.

We have much to be grateful for – attractive planting, beautiful walkways, and the opening of new schools, for a start. We are assured that the bridge around the Magellan Rise lake is to be built in June. It will be a welcome addition to our walking and cycling routes. However, there is still much that we lack.

As a trust:

NECH asks that our community is consulted about proposed developments for the area. For example, the partially council-funded recreation centre here at RJHS is an asset to our area – an asset for which we are grateful. However, the project was sprung on the community as a surprise – on its completion. We ask that the council treats its residents as intelligent humans, asks what we need, and prioritises accordingly. We stress that “consultation” involves face-to-face discussion and is not synonymous with “informing”.We ask the council to make community infrastructure a more urgent priority. The north east of Hamilton is the most rapidly growing area in Hamilton; the rates take must be significant – and growing. At the same time, the community infrastructure required for our new area is noticeably lacking. The bus service to the Woodridge area remains just a promise – and our residents have become wary of promises in the light of ever-shifting priorities and timelines. There are areas with no ultrafast broadband, and we need council to bring forward the building of a community centre, library and swimming pool. Previous councils have allowed the north east of Hamilton to be developed with no physical centre, no heart – and without that heart, the pulse of our community is unable to beat. Our area is full of newcomers. It was significant that when 12 of us met together a year ago to form the new NECH, not one single person in the group was born in Hamilton. We want newcomers to feel welcome in their new Hamilton home – to know where to go so they can participate. When we tell people about North East Community Hub, they ask “Where is the hub?” Hamilton City Council, we ask you “Where is the hub?”

Our trustees have met with individual councillors, and while there have been a range of responses (as might be expected) we have heard little that would give us confidence that the council plans to develop community infrastructure in the north east in the near future. It is dispiriting to meet with a senior councillor who opens his meeting with you by saying “The Mayor says to tell you there’s no money.” In the next breath he says “The north east? I never go there.” That is from a councillor who we elected to represent our interests. While NECH acknowledges the good sense in reducing debt, we maintain it must be balanced with immediate care of our community – a group that contributes heavily to the rates take and which needs to benefit from its rates contribution. In August or September, we plan to hold a public meeting to meet prospective councillors. Please join us at that meeting and come armed with questions that will help us elect representatives who will pay more than lip service to the area where we live.

Our second task is to work at grass roots level.

Our Trust’s activities are underpinned by its values – community, inclusivity, diversity, cooperation and sustainability. While we need to see more Council commitment to our area, there is much that we could – and should – do ourselves.

In addition to developing the Trust’s social media presence, Katy King has built a significant on-line community via the Residents of Flagstaff North Facebook page. It is a credit to her leadership as administrator that the page has over 3,000 members and that the tone remains constructive.As a result of former trustee Brenda Critchfield’s approach to council, a table and seat was installed at the Wisteria Place park.We already have some terrific groups in our area. However, we could individually do more to develop community the old fashioned way – to drop by and introduce ourselves to our new neighbour, invite our neighbour over for a coffee or a beer, share our excess fruit and vegetables. We could make it our business to be sure our neighbours are okay. Grassroots community building begins in our own street.

After this AGM, we will include new team members in establishing our priorities for 2016 to 2017. We are already working on a surprise for booklovers. In addition, a Council staff member indicated that there could be space for community gardens on land that the Council is yet to develop; we could set up a regular coffee cart meeting place for those who are at home during the day; and we are considering having a directory of local groups and/or a business directory on our website. We would like people who are interested in any of these projects – or who have great community-building ideas of their own – to join our team.

There are six people in our current team. I warmly thank them for their constructive and positive attitude, their energy and enthusiasm – Mary Loveless, our thorough and efficient secretary and treasurer; Roger Loveless, submission writer extraordinaire; Katy King, dedicated communications trustee; Daphne Bell whose creative contribution is inspiring and whose experience of Council processes is helpful; and Jason Sebestian. We value his incisive mind and community connections. In addition, I thank the many community-spirited people our trustess have met with in the process of establishing what is important to our community.

Thank you, again, for attending this evening. If you live in Hamilton’s north east, if you would like to see your rates spent on this area and you would enjoy being part of our team, please put your name forward to become one of our trustees. The demands are not arduous – a meeting on the fourth Thursday of each month and a task or two between each meeting. Our trustees are all people who have other community commitments and we do wish to keep the task of being a NECH trustee manageable and sustainable. We have so much we could – and should – do to make the north east the place to live in Hamilton.

Diana Wood, 28 April 2016