Aside from voting in local government elections and giving feedback on plans like Auckland Council’s Annual Budget, how else can you make a difference in your community?
Participating in a range of activities supported by Auckland Council could be the key to achieving this, so here are five options to try if you’re keen to get involved.
Share your thoughts
First up, you don’t even need to leave home to start having your say and making a difference. The online People’s Panel sends out one or two short surveys each month, with feedback from these used to make decisions and formulate plans.
Panel Specialist Allanah Bates says there are over 50,000 Aucklanders, from all backgrounds, who regularly have the opportunity to take part in People’s Panel surveys, and more are always welcome so that council receives a wide range of feedback about its proposals.
It’s quick, easy and, emphasises Allanah, there’s no obligation to respond to every survey. Your personal details and identity are kept private, and once all the feedback is analysed you can access a results summary that has been passed on to decision makers.
Join an Advisory Panel
If you want to be even more involved, you might want to consider joining one of Auckland Council’s Advisory Panels. These are more formal than the People’s Panel and may involve attending scheduled meetings throughout the year.
While those on Advisory Panels don’t make decisions, they do let elected officials – like local board representatives and councillors – know how specific communities feel about certain issues, which can influence the policies, strategies and decisions made.
Auckland Council’s Advisory Panels are split into two sections. The first are demographic panels, which advise on how issues affect certain communities. The panels cover Pacific Peoples, Ethnic Communities, Disability, Seniors, Youth, and Rainbow Communities.
The second section covers Advisory Panels for specific sectors, and provide feedback on issues that directly impact those sectors. The panels cover Auckland City Centre, Public Art, Auckland Urban Design, and Rural.
Give nature a hand
Want to be a little more hands on and boots on the ground? Look for volunteering opportunities in your community. Across the region, Auckland Council partners with a variety of groups and organisations that play a significant role in protecting, regenerating and preserving the environment, as well as supporting action to mitigate climate change.
Around 500 community parks are cared for by volunteer groups who often need help with working bees, education programmes and social events. Auckland Council has an extensive list of projects as varied as monitoring the number of songbirds in a neighbourhood and controlling pests who threaten them, to helping out at the Organic Market Garden urban farm on Symonds Street.
If you live near the beach, Auckland Council and the Department of Conversation offer support and equipment to those who want to do annual shellfish surveys, which provide valuable information about the health of our beaches as well as raise awareness of shellfish harvesting limits.
A number of groups specialise in tree planting projects, which is helping Auckland Council’s Urban Ngahere (Forest) Strategy goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy to 30 per cent across urban areas. This will help reduce carbon emissions and keep the region cool as temperatures rise.
Autumn and early winter are ideal times of year for tree planting, so keep an eye out for planting days in your community. One of the more unique planting enterprises – which is only open to Papakura residents – is the chance for parents and whānau of children born in Papakura in the past year to mark the occasion by planting a tree in the children’s forest. Now in its 34th year, the forest is packed with native species such as rimu, kauri, kōwhai and tōtara.
Minimising waste is also a cornerstone of Auckland Council’s plan to improve our environment, with a goal of being a zero-waste city by 2040.
Repairing and reusing items rather than replacing them can have a big impact on reducing your carbon footprint. Consider taking unwanted items and materials – from whiteware and furniture to timber and metal – to your local community recycling centre rather than putting them out in the trash. Auckland’s three waste minimisation centres – Onehunga, Henderson and Waiheke – provide free sessions on minimising waste.
These are in addition to programmes targeted at specific groups and events. For example, Compost Collective works in partnership with EcoMatters Environment Trust and Kaipātiki Project to run free workshops about how to compost.
If you’re organising an event, Zero Waste Events can help out with advice and support for the best ways to minimise waste, and if you’re the parent of a child in nappies, you can now attend waste-free parenting workshops to learn about eco-friendly nappy alternatives.