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Our Environment: Issue 14 Autumn 1998

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Creating A Positive Future Through Dialogue

Canterbury Dialogues is a unique Christchurch-based initiative focused on a positive future for the city and region. It is dedicated to maintaining and enhancing the quality of life in Christchurch and its region and is a chance for all sectors of the community to explore future challenges together. The four challenges that have been considered over the past eight months were managing urban growth, developing sustainable economic wellbeing, effective environmental management, and social cohesion. The workshop and public plenary sessions were well supported and the discussion spirited.

Professor Peter Newman from Murdoch University in Perth, discussed the issue of managing urban development. During his keynote address he used successful international models to illustrate how other cities are managing their urban growth. His ideas were then considered in terms of the local situation and themes relevant to Christchurch developed.

Gil Simpson, Chief Executive of Aoraki Corporation considered the issue of sustainable economic well-being for our region. He emphasised the role of creativity as a key to business success.

"Creativity is an aptitude we generally don't encourage- we have to convince the mainstream it's okay to think outside the square."

In discussing the attractiveness of Christchurch as a home to business Gil explained that although the natural resources of the Canterbury region are abundant, it is still an 'entry level' region in terms of critical mass of amenities and attractions necessary to compete in the global economy. To attract and retain quality staff, Canterbury must provide broad opportunities to utilise discretionary income.

Alisdair Hutchison from the Ministry of the Environment focused on the pressures that our rapidly increasing population is placing on the natural and physical environment. His keynote address traced the history of the development of Christchurch from "swamp to city" and emphasised the interdependence of all environmental factors. He challenged those at Canterbury Dialogues " to cherish the goose that lays our golden eggs."

"Just, what is social cohesion, and is it an attainable goal?" was the question posed by Judy Lawrence, CEO of the Ministry of Women's Affairs at the final 1997 session of Canterbury Dialogues. Judy spoke of the necessity for a common purpose to attract parties to come together. This often involves trust, shared values, reciprocity, networking and collaboration. She feels that our communities are exhibiting signs of stress, as are governments in terms of their ability to respond to disparities in society. However, she also sees signs of groups coming together around common issues or concerns. Communities need to encourage diversity, be resilient, and foster connection and engagement which is inclusive. Everyone needs to have a place and a role to play.

"The future of our cities is dependent on an understanding of the needs of its people and their interaction ....We seem in the habit of setting up organisations and systems that alienate the very people that they are there to serve, and often the people who work for them."

Designing organisations and social interaction which foster engagement with diverse groups in society will help develop the necessary understanding which could lead to greater cohesion in society. By developing cross-sector networking and interaction Canterbury Dialogues is doing just this.

Last month the original participants met to develop action plans to create cross-sector initiatives that do not alienate people. They seek to establish a positive networking forum across sectors for city and regional leadership and work collaboratively to foster civic participation. Another priority is to develop a range of indicators to monitor sustainable local progress.

Canterbury Dialogues has been an experiment in civic participation. Many people have been involved but we need to encourage many more to develop a fully representative dialogue. It is a chance for you to become involved in the future direction of your city.


For more information contact Nicky Wagner, Convenor, Canterbury Dialogues. (Ph 365-0582 or Fax 365-0514)

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