Community Independent to stand for City Vision for Waitemata Local Board

I feel very fortunate and privileged to have been selected yesterday to be one of the 7 City Vision Candidates standing for the Waitemata Local Board.

Here is my full speech prepared for the Selection Meeting at the Grey Lynn Community Centre on Saturday 19 June 2010.

I’m Pippa Coom
I’m seeking selection as a community independent with the City Vision team for the Waitemata Local Board.

If I have to give myself a job title it is variously –  a change agent, Community Organiser, a cycling advocate, and a free agent, but what I do is work towards  creating a sustainable community.

Integral to what I can bring to the City Vision Campaign and the role of Local Board Member are the people and places that support me and without whom I am not able to achieve anything.

I would like to acknowledge the Steering Committee of Grey Lynn 2030 and the supporters here today – my sustainability colleagues who share the same vision and are working hard to make it happen.

I acknowledge my friends – my urban whanau whose children motivate me to make my generation accountable so that we don’t compromise their future needs at a time of huge environment, social and economic challenges.

I acknowledge my family – my partner Paul who has given up hoping to live with a domestic goddess, and my mum Barbara who I can thank for my social conscious and social responsibility developed from political action starting in the 70’s and a healthy interest in reading the Guardian newspaper from a young age.

I acknowledge this place the Grey Lynn Community Centre – the heart of so much that goes on in our community and my unofficial office at the Grey Lynn Farmers Market each Sunday.

As far as an immigrant can say they have a turangawaewae in NZ that place for me is the central suburbs of Auckland. The first place I landed in when we came  to NZ from the UK in 1982 was Castle Street across the road. My mum recognised the value of living in older heritage suburbs and before we had even set foot in NZ had decided that our home would be in this area.  I also looked at the map of Auckland and from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire decided instinctively that Auckland Girls’ Grammar was the school for me .

For 25 years the family home was in Ponsonby (an area now known as the Avenues of Herne Bay) and now all of my NZ family lives in Grey Lynn (yes that is my entire family in NZ of 2).  I must acknowledge my belated dad Mel for having the foresight to buy a house in Grey Lynn 25 years ago where we live now.

I moved away from Auckland for many years – for uni at Otago, travel, career jobs as a lawyer in Wellington, an OE in London – and would often say that I could never live in this city again. A heartless, crass, cowboy town, destroyed by the corporate vandalism of the 80’s. I was convinced that I’d rather freeze through Wellington summers than live in a place without decent public transport, a closed off waterfront, uninspiring urban design, a paucity of leadership with no civic pride.

But what eventually bought me back 4 years ago was the search for a sense of community, the place I could call my own turf and feel passionate enough about to want to make a difference (not to mention the love of good Auckland man and an opportunity to live close to my mum). With perfect synchronicity, when I was looking to get  back into voluntary work after a hedonistic time overseas, I discovered our local transition town group Grey Lynn 2030.

A group with a positive vision of creating a sustainable, vibrant, self resilient community. At its most simple it is about creating the place we want to live.  We don’t just talk about ideas but take action to make them a reality– waste minimisation, community gardens, water way restoration. I am grateful for the freedom Grey Lynn 2030 has given me to pursue a range of projects – traffic calming initiatives, organising a street party, connecting to the local community through a monthly newsletter, bringing the community together at monthly meetings and encouraging sustainable business practices.

I am fortunate that my job is what I am passionate about- thanks to Vector for making me redundant last year and with the support of my partner – I have been able to work full time for Grey Lynn 2030, on climate change awareness campaigns and for Cycle Action Auckland and Frocks on Bikes  – other fabulous groups that have supported me to get on and make things happen –  and more recently on the City Vision campaign committee.

It really is true that if your job is what you are passionate about you never work another day again. As part of the transition town movement we are encouraged to step up into positions of leadership.  To serve on the Local Board, will to some extent be a continuation of what I am doing now as my job. I say this with respect to the elected officials here who know the reality of local government but I feel am ideally placed to represent my local community. It will be my full -time and only  job using many of my current community focused skills not to mention what I consider normal now  – regular meetings, taking every opportunity to network and playing an active role in the community.

I am also hugely excited about the election, the new era of local democracy and the opportunities provided by the new Auckland Council. I feel positive for what will be achieved and full of hope for an Auckland with a progressive Council and new leadership.  I am committed to campaigning for a City Vision Local Board,  Mike Lee getting elected for the Waitemata- Gulf Ward and Len Brown as Mayor.

It is essential that we have strong local boards and people on those boards who are able to take on a huge range of new responsibilities. I am more than ready for that challenge.  I am not looking for this opportunity to spring board to any other position – my focus and aspirations sit with the central suburbs of Auckland that make up the Waitemata Ward and I acknowledge all the communities that make up the ward and aren’t represented here today.

I come to City Vision as a community independent supported by Grey Lynn 2030 – the philosophy and policy of City Vision fits neatly with our vision for our local community.  I would consider it a huge privilege to stand as a candidate with City Vision and if elected to serve my local community on the Waitemata Local Board. I thank you all for your support.