From our Chair: Ways to contribute to your Canterbury

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

In the last column I spoke about the value of nature-based education and engaging youth to improve environmental outcomes long term.

There is a special case to be made for youth, but the reality is that all Cantabrians can get involved to improve the region’s environment. There are a couple of ways you can do this.

Find your voice

One way is by just speaking up about the things you care about. For instance, you could speak directly to the Council.

Last week a member of the community told us her views on the damage caused to a beech forest reserve by feral animals such as wallabies and deer. It’s important that we hear such perspectives.

What our survey showed

Last year, we conducted a survey of Cantabrians that showed just over half of residents didn’t even know that they could have a say in the work of the regional council.

Of those who did know, around two-thirds had not participated in any way, with many believing it wouldn’t make any difference – that they wouldn’t be listened to or that councillors would just do what they wanted.

The value of speaking up

Hearing the views of the community is invaluable. It provides perspective and supports our decision-making.

I understand that individuals or groups that speak up can sometimes feel like their viewpoint has been ignored or not taken seriously. This can leave them disillusioned or disgruntled, and reluctant to have a say next time.

The truth is that Canterbury is large, and each area has its own characteristics and complex issues to address, so it’s important for us to hear local perspectives.

However, it also means that it can be a real balancing act sometimes. Weighing up all the preferences within budget and policy constraints, and with consideration of social and cultural needs, can be tough. Things need to be prioritised, meaning some ideas need to be put on hold or scaled back.

But don’t stop having a say. Whether making a submission on a plan, presenting to council, contacting a councillor directly or attending a community meeting, your ‘two cents’ is still worth something. It’s an important contribution. If we don’t know what you think, then we can’t consider it.

Making a difference 'on the ground'

Another way to get involved is by getting hands on.

The Canterbury Regional Council works alongside other councils and community groups who want to get stuck in to improve a corner of Canterbury that they care about through environmental projects.

These include things like planting initiatives, cleaning up riverbanks, protecting native plants and animals, and pest control.

If you’ve got a project in mind that you’re passionate about, but don’t know where to start, or need expert advice or financial support, you can get in touch with us or go to the ‘Get Involved’ section of this website.

Incidentally, we will soon be establishing a special fund to support particular community initiatives. The details will be through in the coming weeks.

Help the region flourish

Don’t hesitate to get involved. It’s in the long-term interest of the region that we keep the conversation going and take the opportunities to work together to shape a thriving and resilient region.