Viewpoint – Talking petitions and taking part

It’s easy to think about democracy as something that just happens every now and then, pretty much just during elections. And as we approach a local government campaign period, I would certainly encourage everyone to get knowledgeable about those seeking to represent the area. But participating in our Kiwi version of democracy can be much more than just voting every three years, important as that may be.

For example, I’d like to take this opportunity to applaud those Omaha Beach residents and supporters further afield who have been advocating strongly on the subject of rock pool harvesting. Led by local Mary Coupe, the group has organised a popular petition, taken it to Parliament and appeared in the media … local, national and international (the BBC, no less!). The substantive issue is hugely important, as the pillaging of various rock pool species from our shores threatens the sustainability of our coastlines and traditions. But it’s also important to note how significant it is when locals get involved to voice their concerns.

As the local MP, I’ve been pleased to stand with Mary and those many others, supporting those who signed the petition. It’s always the voices of ordinary (but extraordinary) Kiwis that mean most in the long run, as politicians will always come and go.

Another petition where locals of this area have joined forces – including in the pages of Mahurangi Matters – concerns the banning of landfills near waterways. When waste is buried in landfills, plastics and other toxic materials have the potential to wreak havoc on rivers and harbours, putting our people, plants and other populations at risk. As your local MP, I was pleased to support this petition, too, along with colleagues from across the political divide. There is no need for partisanship when so much is at stake, as I’m sure we can all agree.

When this petition was recently reported back by the relevant Select Committee, we gained an acknowledgement that landfill designs should always aim to be separate from waterways. However, they stopped short of saying outright that this should be a design requirement, so the official response was less useful than it might have been from a local perspective.

While in both cases, the Government’s reaction to the local petitions could have been better, I’m confident that sanity will eventually prevail on these matters. And when that happens, it will be thanks to the democratic participation of passionate locals. Thanks for taking part and please sign a petition today. Future generations will thank you for it.

Viewpoint - MP for Kaipara ki Mahurangi