What is the role of our local councils in terms of doing good, socially … bettering our prospects economically? This role is still to be defined, here in Hawke’s Bay and nationally.

Central government currently feels a council’s job stops once the rubbish is collected, the dogs are registered, the potholes are filled and the rates, the really important bit, are struck. Leave to us chores like promoting jobs, curbing family violence and feeding those without food, Wellington says.

Furnware’s Hamish Whyte with apprentice Mitchell Cunningham.

But finding local solutions to local issues can mark a way forward for a community. And often all it takes is ignition from some form of stable, organised, governing body – like a council.

Councils possess a number of assets useful to community projects of all types – systems, processes, personnel, historical memory. While community projects and initiatives, in their infant days, lack many of the basic mechanisms required to help them develop.

When done well, the two can combine for a great marriage. Not a hand out, a hand up. Teaching fishing skills, not dishing out fish. Knowing only that part of the equation, joint-ventures with councils make sense. Add to the pot benefits such projects bring to councils’ own endeavours in terms of meeting desired community outcomes and it’s a ‘no-brainer’.

Two examples of such synergy are up and running in Hawke’s Bay. Both were started with the help of Hastings District Council. Both are slowly moving away from their council midwives. Both are framed and focused by the needs of Hawke’s Bay people. And both tackle social need head on.

Finding work

Jobs is an area where a little help from council can go a long way.

Youth Futures is a multi-headed programme focused on getting youth work-ready, and enabling employers to confidently add young people to their payrolls.

The lofty aim of Youth Futures is to get 100% of young people (16-24) into training or employment. It’s been given two years to get started, to put in place a workable plan, and to make the whole structure sustainable.

As well as Hastings District Council, EIT, Work and Income, Ministry of Social Development, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, the Police, Napier, Wairoa and Central HB Councils and Ngãti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated are all on board, as are a handful of employers and high schools.

The employer representative on the Youth Futures Advisory Group is Furnware Chief Executive Hamish Whyte: “What I like about it is that we sit in the same room as MSD, HDC, EIT, employers, iwi and school principals and we find solutions together. The Council has seeded us to work collaboratively and agencies are enjoying communicating with each other.”

Youth Futures began with some work experience opportunities being opened up at Hastings District Council. From there, other organisations got involved using the same model. These included Furnware as well as Tumu, Westpac, MWH and Unison. In 2012, its first year, 50 students participated in the programme.

Coordinator Jan Crawford works from within Hastings District Council, in a role funded in collaboration with a number of agencies. She sees it as a bit of a match-making operation, with Council maintaining the energy and ‘setting up’ employers and youth. The programme also helps youth look at building attractiveness as an employee.

“For young people it’s about what they are offering and how they can improve it. For employers it’s about having the confidence to take on youth,” Crawford says

Andrew Reyngoud

The work experience programme sits alongside several other endeavours. Taikura Steiner School runs workshops for youth from all over Hawke’s Bay on CV preparation, presentation and interview skills. Workers from a range of diverse fields go into schools and talk about their jobs.

“Youth need to understand possibilities for work in Hawke’s Bay, and what it is to be ready to do those jobs. They don’t understand it because they don’t see it,” says Hamish Whyte who in future planning would like to see a roadshow whereby youth visit work places in Hawke’s Bay, including his own Furnware.

“You can have a cool job making chairs, they don’t know that. My passion is that we show them. It’s about opening their horizons.”

He adds: “We love people knocking on the door with their CV but it’s rare. You’ve got to make them want it.”

Jan Crawford: “There’s plenty of money going in to youth employment, but we’re still seeing negative statistics. The target age group is 16-24, but we know that you have to start earlier, so you’ve got them thinking effectively.”

By 2020 there will be more people leaving the workforce in Hawke’s Bay than joining it. “We have to make sure every one of our young people is engaged, trained and ready to work here,” believes Crawford.

A major part of Crawford’s role is building awareness among employers. “I’m going out and talking to them, getting them engaged in the idea and beginning to see options for them to participate. At the very least we want to see people talk about how important this is that we get our kids into work. Many of the issues we have in youth employment, money wouldn’t fix, it’s about energy and collaboration.”

Projecting from national figures, there are approximately 3,000 16-24 year olds out of work or training in Hawke’s Bay, about 1,700 of those are Mãori. Although pragmatic about employment facts and figures in the Bay, Whyte is optimistic about the future. “I see Hawke’s Bay as a vibrant, energetic region, and there’s some cool and groovy businesses here … I love this place! … We just need a little bit more confidence and some ‘getting to know your neighbour’,” he says.

Feeding people

Kai Collective is run by a committee and coordinated by Andrew Reyngoud, pastor at Flaxmere Baptist Church.

The idea was sparked in May 2012 by Wayne Bradshaw and Henare O’Keefe, Hastings district councillors. The two were driven by twin motivations. “They hated seeing food go to waste, and they have a heart for people,” says Reyngoud.

In its simplest sense Kai Collective is a group of organisations that work together to coordinate food ‘rescue’ in Hawke’s Bay. “From field to stomach, 40% of our food is wasted,” says Reyngoud.

The early stages of the project involved bringing people together and getting them talking; that was facilitated by Council, who also put towards the project about 20 hours of administrative time.

The Collective acts as a central depot letting organisations know when and where food can be collected. Those groups then go on to distribute food to individuals from Waipukurau to Napier.

Due to the nature of the issue, it’s impossible to identify how many individuals benefit. But there are 27 organisations who have accessed Kai Collective since its inception, including marae, foodbanks, schools, Plunket and women’s refuge. In under a year, Kai Collective has distributed 8.5 tonnes of food.

“Hastings District Council helped initiate the project, but none of this is just in the Hastings district; it’s far wider than that,” explains Reyngoud.

“People ownership of a project does make things stronger. I am a great fan of not leaving it to Council. But sometimes you need Council at the beginning – it’s the fertiliser and water.”

The organisations contributing to the Collective all have different visions and objectives. The key to sustainability may be the diversity of people, and ideologies, involved. Having a low footprint in terms of infrastructure costs also helps considerably.

A lot from very little

Food comes from such places as Heinz Watties, McCains, Hawke’s Bay Seafoods, Kaweka Foods and various apple growers. Initially, non-perishable foods were the most desirable for the Collective to handle, but now, after running trials, the group can act as a central pick up point for frozen and fresh foods, getting it out to people who need it before it becomes unusable.

Kai Collective is going from a bright idea to a well-oiled machine, pretty good for no budget and a bunch of volunteers who do a whole lot of other things as their day jobs.

“We are still a very young organisation and we’re getting our systems and processes up and running. What we needed was a little bit of initial help from Council, and that they didn’t put barriers in our way.” Reyngoud emphasises that although it can help, money is not the chief requirement for progress. “The percentage of money spent on social services is miniscule, but many organisations can do an awful lot with very little.”

Reyngoud quotes Ernest Rutherford when he says: “We’ve got no money, so we’ve got to think.”

“Money will always be a real issue, so right from the start we asked: ‘What can we do for free?’”

Without funds, other things were needed to get Kai Collective up and running. Thinking was the main one, but also time. “We had to look at the ‘spare’ in people’s lives, that which can be donated, one of the main ones is time. Our focus has always been on what we’ve got, not on what we haven’t.”

What Kai Collective will always need more of is food. “We’ll always find a way to use what we’ve had donated.”

Reyngoud’s hope for the future is that food banks and schools get the food they need to feed children; and that people move from dependence to independence.

“The need in the community is great. We do want to move people away from a reliance on food banks. (A lack of) food is a symptom; the next wave of work is to look at reasons.”

Reyngoud says he would feel a great sense of accomplishment if the Collective was able to rescue more food than it’s currently receiving. “The waste is enormous. We don’t need the entire 40%, even if 1% of that which is generated in Hawke’s Bay found its way to us, then it would be more than enough.”

Employers who wish to know more about Youth Futures should contact janc@hdc.govt.nz

Food producers interested in knowing more about Kai Collective can contact vikki.j@eastcoast.familyworks.org.nz

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