In a previous post I shared advice for activists seeking to save the Taumarunui & Districts War Memorial Hall. I continue to discuss the ways that activists can achieve their objectives.
A meeting will be held on Wednesday 10th July 2019 planning for the saving of the Taumarunui & Districts War Memorial Hall. Public sentiments are that the hall should be kept, for various reasons following decades of population (and therefore usage) decline and council’s decision to demolish it. No clear usage exists and RDC has held off demolition pending talks with interested parties.
I’ve previously supported exposure (Taumarunui Bulletin Letters to the Editor) and given advice, predicting that activists will ultimately fail due to lack of clear leadership. As I see it, sentiments of the community run largely along the lines of retention with a very small percentage (estimated at 4%) supporting its removal. Chief among the agitators’ reasons for retention is the War Memorial aspect, followed by the previous generation’s vision, sacrifice and commitment to its creation. Aesthetic and personal reasons also exist. Notable voices for its retention to my knowledge are ex-mayor Sue Morris, retired Owhango singer Clare Grattan, Deputy Mayor Karen Ngatai (reportedly), ex-Mayor Weston Kirton (meeting convenor) and Peter & Rosie Buckland (activists).
Taking on the RDC is buying a fight, literally and this is of necessity (or will become) hugely personal. Entering the ring unprepared or uncommitted is unwise and activists will need to be strong, tough, committed and [street] smart. Remember that public sentiment can be strong yet politicians can override this (John Key’s anti-smacking legislation introduced in the face of overwhelming referendum voting against it is a perfect example). Dealing with the facts alone will bring failure when playing politics. Winning requires a stronger ‘hand’ and comes down to usage of the cards dealt to us. A novice with even the Joker can be easily beaten. Framing the argument allows the RDC to achieve their goals. Taking the issue public in an intelligent concerted manner will help activists to frame the discussion, thus this will create the environment where RDC will want to reassess things, and the building could indeed be saved. The message needs to be clearly elucidated and positive. “Saving the hall” is essentially negative albeit a ‘double negative’.
The battlefield is the mind. The law, public sentiments, the politics surrounding an issue, the subject (in this case a building), and the financial are all factors but the fight is one of heart and intellect. The winner of the war will be the one who gains the upper hand in the intellectual stakes based on commitment. This requires a deep understanding of the opposition and an unwavering commitment to the cause. Those who seek the hall retention need to know and understand not only every thing but also every one in order to prevail.
RDC made the decision to demolish. Why? There is substantial information not yet in the public domain. The best way to secure this is to ask for it. When bits of it come out this will give activists clues as to what other information exists and what other information the RDC is hiding – and rest assured that there is! Falsehood also surrounds Clive Manley’s words and he fears (or should fear) exposure. Truth hidden is powerless. Activists will need to get the facts and then get the facts out there . . . expose them and watch those abusing power back-pedal just as cockroaches flee when the light comes on. I’d be using the OIA in association with RDC insiders to get the things they don’t want you to see, then using the media to get that message out. Understand that even though there is collusion between the local rag and the RDC, a story is still a story, or an opinion shared still has validity.
Forget the theory, the way things are ‘supposed’ to work and fluffy platitidues such as transparency, accountability and democracy. RDC is run by Clive Manley. Both the Mayor & the Council do his bidding. Activisits need to know and understand that Clive’s way with people is ‘different’ and that his ethics are ‘flexible’. This flexibility works both ways, for just as it means that he has the power to make decisions (for example to demolish something of value like the hall), it also means that he has the power to do deals to save the hall. He just has to have a good reason to do it and he will. Simple, if not easy.
Structural or financial issues loom high on activists minds because RDC logically will need to see and approve any alternative. This form though, should flow from the function. If something is commercial in nature then the operation will naturally be a company, existing or new doesn’t matter. If it is a community service then the most efficient operation is anything with tight leadership under the visionary. Personally I would switch off the moment I saw a committee or some dreamy concept. People always follow people who lead – not organisations nor concepts nor ideas. Just look at the lack of effective leadership within the Taumarunui Museum Trust going back 30+ years and you can see this. When Cookie set it up and he led it, they secured the Memory Bank building – a massive achievement for the town due to vision and leadership. When Britain was defeated and demoralised Churchill stood up and led a revival of spirits. Like it or not the same is true with RDC – it’s not the Mayor who leads these guys (he’s just your typical politician). Without a visionary and leader, activists will remain talkers and (as I said previously) will lose.
Ideas for usage abound but at the end of the day it is still an old largely under-utilised hall in a central location beside a major road artery on Maori contested land* down one end of a long ‘passing through/toilet-stop town’ – yes, yes I know that Taumarunui thinks it’s a little more than this – I know. The hall though is not an information centre, nor a museum, exhibition centre or similar. This all begs commercial usage, or certainly a mixture of commercial and community usage. I too have my ideas on potential usage but unless I’m encouraged to get involved, they will remain ideas for the moment while I work on practical things of the moment.
I was asked recently how to save it and the above gives the general big-picture. How to really “nail it” though requires a knowledge of the people and politics involved. There are key people that will be needed to make it happen (whatever “it” is). It’s not appropriate to mention these people publicly at this stage but there are three sectors of society that will need to have their needs met for anything to work – Pakeha, Maori & Council. Personally I think that a Pakeha-led operation could work by bringing the other two sectors into the fold – giving them what they wanted, but that any other way would bring failure. Pakeha would quietly switch off with any Maori-led operation and RDC would be sure to screw it up and [probably wisely] obviously don’t want it. There are also warnings of things that I predict will be certain to bring failure – involvement of bureaucrats, politicians and committees. I’d avoid politicians, talkers and bureaucrats like the plague, unless I was using them to achieve a particular goal. It doesn’t need a hundred people. It just needs the right ones, at the right time to do the right thing.
Hope that helps 🙂
Anyone got vision, balls and leadership skills?
* The land was donated to the council by Maori for the Hall way back when and will likely revert to them if the Hall is demolished.