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The Cresa Report
by Liz Westbrooke

The Centre for Research, Evaluation and Social Assessment (CRESA) recently worked with the community to develop a shared vision for Great Barrier Island. Their objectives were to define the values of the island (natural, social, cultural and recreational); to identify stakeholders’ aspirations for the island; and to define principles for development.

They carried this out in a very comprehensive manner. CRESA included an analysis of census statistics and past reports, interviews with on-island residents and off-island property owners, focus groups and workshops with various interest groups both on and off the island, and interviews and meetings with local and central government officers in DOC, the ARC and Auckland City. They sent out surveys to both on-island residents and off-island ratepayers and distributed three reports for comment. Finally they put together a draft Vision Statement and invited the community to drop-in sessions to view this and discuss any points with them. This then went to the key agencies for comment and inclusion in their planning processes, and the final Vision Statement is now available.

So what are the results? Here are some quotes from the Island Values (section 3):

"The community: The community is valued for its diversity, independence, resourcefulness and people’s care for one another…

The natural environment: The island’s natural environment is highly valued for its island status, the existing ecological values, the diversity of landscape and scenic beauty, the island’s freedom from possums and its potential to be pest free. The island’s substantial size adds to its special significance ...large scale protection programmes are possible, providing lessons for mainland activities…   

Cultural heritage: Culture and heritage values on the island range from early Maori history, to early European economic activity and settlement, to ecological heritage values… Specific heritage values include signs of Ngati Rehua’s association with GBI over many centuries. These include numerous archaeological sites such as pa (with defensive and habitation features), agricultural and settlement sites (with still visible terracing, storage pit depressions and deposits of food waste or ‘midden’), and stone-working sites…

Recreational opportunities: The island’s natural marine and land-based environment provides many recreational opportunities, including boating, diving, fishing, bush walking and tramping, hunting and, of course, swimming and other beach activities…"

Current Trends are outlined in Section 4. It will come as no surprise that ‘population decline’ is the major of these and is seen by the community as ‘possibly leading to contraction in the local economy, loss of services and stalling of infrastructure development’. The other main topic here is ‘growth in the visitor industry’. That is viewed as positive if managed to benefit the island and maintain island lifestyles but not if it impacts on the GBI lifestyle, the number of vacant houses and has effects on living costs.

So how does the island view itself in the future? Just what do people envisage for themselves? The vision is covered in detail in section 5 titled: Where do we want to be in the future? Here is the full text on the first point, a stable population base:

"A stable population base: Great Barrier Island will attract people, including families, as permanent residents because the local community:

• is vibrant and diverse

• supports and values a resourceful arts and culture sector (including events)

• invests time and resources into integrated community development

• has access to a reasonable infrastructure and range of services.

The size and composition of the permanent resident population is sufficient to support the development and maintenance of reasonable services and infrastructure. That population size (i.e. a stable population) is estimated to be around 1,500."

The entire list of desirable attributes sought by the community is:

  • A stable population base

  • Infrastructure / services / information meets the needs of local residents and visitors

  • A viable economy and job opportunities

  • Protection of the natural environment, including the coastal and marine environment:

  • Protection of heritage and cultural values

  • Preservation of the existing community character

  • Availability of a range of recreational opportunities

Again no surprises here (it is a bit like ‘motherhood’ and ‘apple pie’, no one will disagree with these) but the detail is interesting. So here is a sampling from some of the other points:

"Infrastructure / services / information meets the needs of local residents and visitors includes an innovative education environment that includes on-island secondary schooling options, a state-of-the-art distance education system, a minimum of three primary schools, a Kohanga Reo and a range of pre-schools; an information network that establishes the island as an innovative IT user and provides the platform for distance learning and distance working…

A viable economy and job opportunities includes the development of Great Barrier Island as a high value destination for domestic and international visitors; assessment of the economic value of conferring a special status on some of the island (e.g. like a world heritage area) to protect the values that residents and others prize; development of a range of tourism products and amenities sympathetic to the natural environment…

Protection of the natural environment, including the coastal and marine environment: One step is a restored and pest free natural environment. Total pest eradication, particularly of feral cats and rats, will further enhance the benefits that the island’s current possum free status gives to bush cover and the viability of some species. The pest free status will also enable the island to be marketed as a unique eco-tourism destination, as pest-free islands of the size of GBI are a rarity internationally and could provide research and education possibilities…

Preservation of the existing community character: The community, although considerably larger, retains the characteristics that local people and others value: independence, self-reliance, resourcefulness, diversity and optimism. Other characteristics, like ‘community care for their own’, are also evident. ….parochialism and non-cooperativeness, are overcome to the extent that the local community works together and with others to achieve the economic growth and infra-structural development they desire and protection of island characteristics they value."

The full document is too long to reprint here so you can download it as a .pdf file (this is a quick format for download) off the CRESA web site or go and look at a paper copy at the Auckland City centre in Claris.

The GBI Community Board is at present looking at the feasibility of picking this work up and developing the next stage, an action plan. This would be a great outcome and mean that an impressive survey of islander, ratepayer and agency opinion and knowledge does not just sit on the shelf – it results in realisation of at least some of the community’s ideas.