By Len Salt.
The Power of Tea and Scones
Our Councillors and Community Boards along with staff have done some great work in the past few months in pulling together all the parts that we’ll need to go out for feedback on our Draft Long-Term Plan.
I was about to go ahead and focus on this for my monthly column in the pages of The Informer, when a conversation with members of our community partnerships team made me pause and think about how we’ve got to where we are right now - taking in all the weather events that have caused massive disruption to our district over the last few months.
In the beginning, immediately after the worst of the storms, flooding and landslips, our compliance teams had to quickly assess the safety of homes and apply placards, or stickers, to them. Some people had to leave their homes for their own safety. A number were elderly, some with limited mobility and resources. Often they were frightened, anxious, uncertain. Sometimes angry and confrontational. Weather, road conditions and access were still difficult across much of the North Island.
Our compliance teams worked closely with affected residents, business operators and homeowners to make sure they remain safe, if their homes are damaged, they are assessed as quickly as possible and they are kept informed at all stages of this difficult process.
Our Community Partnerships team consists of a coordinator and two Social Navigators and they have worked alongside the compliance teams. Our Social Navigators came to us from social services roles in the community, while the coordinator has a long history with our Emergency Management team. The Social Navigator’s roles are paid for through government recovery funds for a year.
They told me the story of visiting a woman in her slip-affected home who was deeply upset when a Council compliance officer, accompanied by one of our Social Navigators, visited her home to discuss the options available. The reception for them was strained. It was not a warm welcome. Over the following weeks and months things started to change as staff worked through the regulatory processes – and our Navigators wrapped around social support by connecting these people up to the right services. Now when they visit, they are greeted with a hug and offered tea and scones. They have a catch-up and a laugh. Things are looking up. Uncertainty has turned to hope. Anxiety has changed to trust and confidence that there are people working on her behalf for the best outcomes.
So what changed? “It’s the human element,” one of the Navigators said, “It’s personal because it has to be. These are people whose lives can often be completely disrupted. Being asked to leave their homes, even for their own safety, is frightening.”
Our compliance officers have a difficult job to do, and they start from a position of trying to keep people and properties safe from harm. Our team of Social Navigators works closely with our local iwi and marae, with the agencies, both government and volunteers, who help to get our residents through the toughest times. A few kind words over a cup of tea and a scone can make all the difference.
In saying that, our Long-Term Plan is still going to have deal with a lot of recovery work. Over the past week we’ve hosted some public drop-in days so people can come and talk to our elected members over a cuppa about what we need to budget and prioritise over the next years. If you want to find out more on the Long-Term Plan visit our website at www.tcdc.govt.nz/LTP-2024-2034.
Caption: From Left: Social Navigators bring strong experience in social services: Kath Makiri was born and raised in Coromandel Town. Kath worked for CILT in Adult Community Education and was responsible for organising courses and workshops in Coromandel Town and the wider community. Sheryll FitzPatrick has joined TCDC from Whitianga Social Services where she has worked for the past three and a half years. Community Partnerships co-ordinator, Helen Flynn has spent the last 11 years supporting communities as our Civil Defence team’s Senior Emergency Management Officer. She brings a wealth of strong partnerships established with our partner agencies and communities.