In response to comment by one of our readers, Eva and Geoffrey met with Raumati Community Board Chair Bede Laracy to talk about this pro-active discussion piece he and Ward councilor Sophie Handford composed and presented at the last meeting of the Raumati Community Board.

This is an elaboration that Bede has specifically written for us.

Our Vision for Raumati is a project that sets out to create a long-term vision for Raumati. Based on the premise that while we all love Raumati, change is happening that we cannot control. We should therefore create a vision by the people and for the people that expresses who we are and what type of place we want to be, in order to allow change but still keep what we love. We don’t believe that job should be left to the Council to carry out. We believe it should be done by the people.

The Our Vision for Raumati project started out in early 2022 from a simple desire to look at the future of the area and wonder what that might be like.

Since the council election in 2019, Paekakariki-Raumati Ward Councillor Sophie Handford and I had been working on issues in Raumati, and together we secured the establishment of a Raumati Community Board of which I am now Chair. With plenty more work ahead, we sat and had a conversation about our own personal values with a view to establishing the basis for an ongoing working relationship. Fundamental to us both was the wellbeing of our local communities and a need to ensure that local people had a chance to direct their own future. Issues around Raumati Village showed that there was a need for longer term thinking, and the idea of developing a broad and long-term vision for Raumati emerged from that conversation.

A long-term vision can be useful for any number of reasons. For example, it forms a picture of who we are as a community, and what matters to us. A clearer sense of identity can help locals feel more connected, and newcomers to the area have a sense of what it is they are coming into when they arrive. It can be used to direct work programs where work needs to be done, or it can highlight where work is needed that isn’t currently on the radar. And it means that as work is carried out, it is done in a way that allows for future use and growth, rather than us doing something today only to find that in a couple of years it needs to be changed. So it has a role to play in asserting identity and in encouraging aspirations with our community. But is can also have a defensive role to play.

Anyone who has been involved in local government over the last few years will be aware that things are changing – and rapidly. Issues such as housing intensification, RMA reform, population growth, Local Government reform, the ‘Three Waters’ plan, economic development, coastal hazards, and other issues, will lead to considerable change to our neighbourhoods over the coming years. We can’t necessarily stop these changes, but what we can do is make a strong statement about what matters to us as a community that can hopefully inform and influence the shape of the change as it occurs. By developing Our Vision for Raumati we hope to create a tool that helps to ensure that while change may occur, we can defend and protect our beloved way of life.

With these big issues and opportunities in mind, we decided that a vision for Raumati might be useful, and we started with a survey entitled “re-envisaging Raumati” that asked broad open-ended questions. In late March 2022 we sent that out across Facebook, and to lots of local people and groups. We received about 80 responses, and there were lots of good, detailed answers with lots of ideas and suggestions included. We took the results and compiled them, and we decided that what we needed to do was have the ideas detailed in an illustration so that they were easily accessible. We took the survey results, along with the 2007 KCDC Local Outcomes document, and the 2021 First Retail Group strategy plan for Raumati Village, and we commissioned local artist Lisa Richardson to provide us with the imagery. For that part of the process, we applied to the Paraparaumu Raumati Community Board for a grant which provided the cost of the illustration. No other external funds have been used for any part of this project, which is probably a key point for people to be aware of.

The illustration process started in August 2022, and it occurred across several months as the illustrator worked through the complex web of different ideas and the various artistic techniques required to express them. In December we received the image. The illustrator had done an outstanding job creating a beautiful artistic image that expressed the key aspects of the source documents. That image, which is considered our main first draft, is now our primary document and we will spend the year engaging with our community about it. Key to understanding the image is that every idea contained in it has come from someone in the community. They are not our ideas as project leaders, but “our” ideas as a combined community. The concept that the ideas come from people in the community is what gives the project so much relevance and impetus. And we’ve found that people have been excited about the project as a result.

As part of the engagement process, we have partnered with some key local groups. Raumati Village Business Association, Low Carbon Kapiti, Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce, Kapiti Cycling Action, Kapiti Economic Development Association (KEDA), and Lisa Draws Ideas, have all shown support by agreeing to be our Engagement Partners. None of these groups provide funds, and we haven’t asked for their databases. We merely want to show that we have their support, and they can keep up to date with the project or come to us if any issues arise. They can then decide for themselves whether they share information about the project to their memberships – there are no obligations. We’re also hoping to develop relationships with iwi to understand how to incorporate their aspirations into the vision.

The route this project takes differs from standard Council processes. We do not view our process as better or superior to that of the KCDC, but it is different. The timeframe for this process is longer than Council would normally provide, and the size of the document is clearly much smaller. Council is directed by statute to carry out particular forms of consultation. What that often looks like is a large document in sometimes small print, and people have 28 days to file their submissions followed by a three-minute slot if they speak to their submission. That isn’t much time to digest large amounts of often complex and technical information and formulate a response. While it serves a purpose, surely it can’t be the only way?

As this is not a Council initiative, we are not constrained by those statutory requirements. Instead, we can take the time our community needs, and direct the process down whatever path the community signals we need to take it down. The vision in its current form is our primary document, there are not endless pages of technical data behind it. That means anyone – young, old, literate or not – can look at the document and form an opinion. By taking our time, we are allowing the community to gradually absorb the detail of it, as well as the long-term implications, and come back to us in whatever way they feel comfortable. That might mean submitting through our website portal, commenting on Facebook/Instagram, emailing us, meeting with us either as an individual or with a group, or coming to a public session where we can have group discussion and workshop ideas into the process. We are open to the various ways people might want to connect with the project.

The process we’re following takes a simple approach. With our draft vision in hand, we simply ask people – what do you think? What do you love? What do you hate? What’s missing? Those sorts of open-ended questions. Discussion can then help to flesh out people’s thoughts, and overtime build a deep base of input to test the ideas in place or develop new ones. The ultimate aim is to repeat the drafting process to re-draw the image with all of that feedback in mind. That final image will then stand as the completed long-term vision.

So far the engagement process has already been a journey. Aside from our key Engagement Partners, we’ve presented to groups such as the Youth Council, Kapiti College Head Student Team, the Disability Reference Group, LGNZ Zone 4 Leader’s Meeting, and KCDC elected Members and senior staff. We have met with a number of individuals, some of whom started with some strong concerns that were allayed through conversation. We have met with a local business owner who is looking to expand their business and we’ve offered our information free of charge. And we have helped to create considerable public discussion about what to do with the old Raumati Pool building – something that the local community clearly feels very passionate about – and in the process we’ve uncovered some amazing ideas people have for the space as well. 

With a potential Raumati development in mind, [housing authority] Kainga Ora have been in touch to get a sense of what matters to our local community. We’ve been asked to present at this year’s Local Government conference as an example of community-led engagement, and coming up is a meeting with Kapiti College’s Raumati Technology Centre. Recently we were invited to Wainuiomata to understand what the community there has achieved through “Love Wainuiomata”. They started a similar project about 10 years ago and that has manifested in a major town centre upgrade that the community there has – mostly – been happy with. We were able to look at what has worked for them, and how we might incorporate some of what they’ve learned into our process. That experience has made us think about how we might structure our project, to think deeper about the wider and longer-term life of the project, and hope that a project like this can lead to successful tangible outcomes for the community. This has all occurred since launching the project in January 2023 – a busy 3 months!

The feedback we have gained so far has been hugely positive and supportive and that has propelled us to keep progressing the process. The love people have for Raumati has been clear. There is passion for Raumati to be the most connected, accessible, safe, sustainable, green, equitable, and thriving, community possible. That love and passion motivates us to keep pushing the project and working towards something great. Our community-driven approach continues to gather momentum, and we are committed to ensuring that Our Vision for Raumati represents the aspirations and priorities of our community.

The other Community Boards of Kapiti are looking at this project and wondering how they can do the same in their areas. While we remain happy to help where we can, those projects will be best served by their own people leading them and if they do proceed they may look very different from what we have done. Showing the differences across the district would be a positive, as each town sees itself as distinct from its neighbours. But there is also something of an essence that exists across the district, and ultimately it would be amazing to discern precisely what that is through an overarching vision process for Kapiti. That process though. would likely be for Council to run, and what we have learnt since commencing our project is that there are plans underway to do exactly that. Whether it was prescience on our part, or simply sympatico, there appears to be a growing agreement in our district that forward vision is a good thing. Business has known this for decades. Let’s see what we as a people can develop for ourselves.