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Communities and wellbeing

Brenda photoBrenda Pilott

National Manager | Social Service Providers Aotearoa

At the weekend, the Prime Minister outlined the government’s plan for “a modern and prosperous New Zealand”.

Wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families is one of the key themes and is to form the basis of the 2019 Budget.  That seems like a good idea – it doesn’t make sense to have a strong economy if citizens aren’t doing well or if significant portions of the community are left behind.

But beyond that, it is not yet clear what the difference will be between a wellbeing budget and the usual kind.  There are a lot of smart people in the public service and political ranks trying to work out what that looks like and naturally there is a parallel discussion about this going on in the community sector too.  And as we know, parallel lines don’t actually meet at any stage, so a fresh approach to engagement between government and community is needed.

There are some promising signs of stronger engagement at the level of specific initiatives, like the engagement in communities around the country on big issues such as the welfare system and mental health.  That’s as it should be.  I for one don’t want a government that thinks it knows all the answers.  I’m happy that the government wants to seek a plurality of views and listen to them before deciding on action.

One thing I would like to see is a loosening of the secrecy within which budgets are traditionally formed.  This practice is a relic of bygone times and doesn’t fit with the openness and transparency the government says is the way it will operate.

Another change we are seeking is a refresh of the relationship between government and community.  Towards the end of the Clark government, Pathways to Partnership started a real attempt at acknowledging the value to government and the community of a partnership approach to common goals.  That approach didn’t endure past the 2008 election.

Strong communities and strong community organisations play a key role in wellbeing.  We’ve got a business council, we’ve got formal relationships between the government and organised labour.  The missing piece is a genuine and meaningful channel for government and the community sector to engage, debate and work together.

 

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

Click here for our websitehttp://comvoices.org.nz/