A very humbling feeling

01:47, Feb 26 2014

For the next 100 days southlandtimes.co.nz will follow newly elected Invercargill City Councillor Rebecca Amundsen.

She's not an unfamiliar face to people  who live in Glengarry, or those who voted for her.

She's a mother, a landlord, a project leader and now a city councillor.

But this isn't just our project, it's yours too.

Get involved by posting comments, asking questions and answering polls each week as we follow Rebecca's first days in office.

Each week Rebecca will also write about her council musings.




I can tell what sort of things I have been busy doing by the length of my finger nails.

If I am busy with work and volunteer related things my finger nails are long and unbroken.

If I  have been able to make time for housework and the vege garden then my nails will be all different lengths because I don't wear gloves and my nails always get caught on something.

At the moment my nails are all long.

The fact that our chickens are grazing in our vege garden is another indication of what I have been doing this year.

The past couple of summers I have managed quite a good garden, well by good I mean I successfully grown a few heads of broccoli, carrots, silver beet and zucchini.

This year my zucchini plants were eaten by slugs, the broccoli went straight to seed but I do have two silver beet plants that are trying to grow.

So three months in to the council experience I am learning that I need to prioritise.

I am involved in a number of things all of which I enjoy but some of which will have to go because there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything.

And, I did run for council to make a difference and I can't do that if I am not putting in time and energy.

Another thing I have noticed is that people like to ask ''how is council going?''

My answer is usually ''interesting'' because it sounds better than ''good''. And this is true. I am finding it interesting on a raft of levels.

I wasn't completely naive coming into council.

I had dealt with council staff and councillors before.

I knew about the red tape, the slow pace of things, the meetings and the reading. Which said like that doesn't sound interesting at all!

But I guess the difference now is that I know these council staff and councillors as people.

And they are interesting people with a passion for what they are doing.

It is probably unfortunate that sometimes we lose sight of that fact and just see them as council staff and city councillors.

As people they all have different ideas of how things should be done or what should be done and they are willing to put their ideas out there to be debated and discussed and sometimes dismissed and in the public arena no less.

My idea is to bring improved community engagement to the council.

This means a lot of things including letting the community take back some of the power in the decision making process and then working with the community to make their decisions happen.

I am fully aware that this is quite a different approach to the traditional local government way.

I know that I cannot expect this type of change to happen overnight and without some evidence that this approach works and has benefits for both the community and the council.

So I am doing my homework.

I am getting a feel for where people sit on the community engagement continuum.

I am heading to an Inspiring Communities workshop this week to learn more from this nation wide organisation who has been studying community-led development in New Zealand. http://inspiringcommunities.org.nz/ 

I have ordered another six books through Amazon on various aspects of the community engagement process. 

And I am registered to attend a three day course run by an international organisation on public participation.

I am excited about using all this knowledge to help bring our council and community together.

I am also trying to make sure that I keep being a person in the eyes of the community.

I don't want to just be a city councillor.

I want the community to know what I am passionate about.

I had a lovely lady come up to me at the Home Show a week or two back and she said that she had voted for me because she loved what I had been involved in Glengarry and in the community, that she liked that I helped make things happen and she was excited to meet me.

She nearly made me cry and I don't ever want to forget that very humbling feeling.

But it also reinforced that my goal to make a difference in my community.

So when I am looking at my priorities being involved in my community will definitely stay.

In fact I liked what I heard Matt McCarten say on tv recently that he doesn't do anything he wouldn't do for nothing.

In Glengarry most of us do what we do as volunteers.

Some of these people are spending up to 15-20 hours a week on their projects.

This is an amazing commitment.

And just to reassure, my involvement in Glengarry will not be diminishing, it is a priority.

And if people want to find out just what a wonderful community Glengarry is then you should come along to the Glengarry Community Market this Saturday.

The Glengarry Community Market which I helped start with my friend Ree (whose idea it was) will be heading into its fourth year this month and we have big plans for the market in 2014! 


The Southland Times