Housing affordability in the regions ignored once again

Today's bipartisan announcement of changes to allow for medium density property development is fantastic and I was very excited to see the changes come through. 

My first thought was that it would allow some of the affordable housing projects my friends have been trying to get off the ground to get the green light. But then this: 

Tier one urban sites- Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga, and Hamilton. 

No mention of the regions struggling to house whanau and the land that is almost impossible to get resource consents for. 

Rotorua surely is a top candidate for a Christchurch-style opening up of land for housing. Here in Turangi we have huge sections with 1960's Ministry of Works houses that are too small for most families. Prime land for housing our people and their families through to retirement and over 55 years developments. 

Let's hope the the next round of changes are announced soon, so that those in the regions aren't forgotten about, again. 

Super Saturday- a winning model of decentralised communications

Maori and Pasifika have been left behind in the covid 19 vaccine rollout. 

I'll leave the long-running, structural reasons for that for another time but what it comes down to is a lack of trust in the authorities and media. Trust can't be rebuilt in the next two months so what to do to get the vaccine numbers up?

The pivot on Super Saturday to a grass roots, decentralised communications approach where local providers spoke directly to their target audiences worked. The numbers proved it with over 130 000 vaccinations and targets exceeded for Maori and Pasifika jabs. 

The televised Vaxathon was a hit with young, fresh faces I've never really seen (showing my age) taking control of the messaging to get out and get vaccinated. Troops on the ground were equipped with fun event ingredients, spot prizes and thank you packs to get the tail end through. So the question is why wasn't this done earlier and has the current approach been all wrong? Should we just decentralise all the communications now?

"This is your captain speaking"

The message control coming out of the government has been necessarily tight and in an emergency situation like the one in March 2020 the team got it right. The 1pm public address format with media present ensured that the Team of Five Million were all on the same page and the clear, sharp (some say kindergarten) explanations navigated the country through a challenging time. 

"This your captain speaking" and fire it out as a press release has worked for certain audiences and built a good foundation to decentralise things out to grass roots channels. For example, on Super Saturday crowds of all ages were delighted by a dancing Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. He was a total unknown 18 months ago. How did he get covid comms famous and become a trusted source? The joking around of Vaxathon youth presented with 'Optimus Prime' (PM Jacinda Ardern) was adorable and powerful all at the same time. 

Public health in New Zealand is notoriously bad at paid media advertising as a result of them having no budget and third party agency power. Public health have become over reliant on the traditional media to get their messaging out and the paid work often comes as an after thought. Here comes the issue for Maori and Pasifika communities-they're often not engaged in mainstream media channels and go to other sources such as social or word of mouth, relational channels. The fragmented media is harder and more expensive. You need complicated media planning, multiple languages and broad range of media-trained talking heads. It's harder and you risk losing control of your messages-especially if you are trying to pull all the levers from Wellington. 

Many of the ground troops involved in Super Saturday had already been partially media trained by the 1pm announcements -whether they knew it or not. But the time has come to add more grass roots campaigns as well as the centralised messages. Equip the people on the ground and if that means Super Saturday 2, I'm here for it. 

Brian Tamaki and his picnics that aren't protests

I'm on the fence about Brian Tamaki. Not as a person or a church leader, but on the legal ramifications of the the gathering he fronted in the Domain. 

He was definitely in breach of a Public Health Order and has been charged accordingly. But how does the right to protest work in a pandemic and what does that mean for democracy in our country? There has been some discussion from other bloggers such as David Farrier that Tamaki was the brown patsy for a white-church coordinated political drive but I think this is all nonsense. Tamaki is a big boy and while I doubt his wisdom, I don't doubt his cunning. 

The language gets tricky and Tamaki is working this. Facebook pages claimed the gathering was not a protest but a Stand (using Biblical language here). Tamaki met with high ranking police and explained his intentions for the October 2 event. Now, the church leader is planning further "picnics" in covid restricted areas- to mock the terminology used by the government. Surely he would be better to come out and simply claim a protest but their group has been careful not to do this. 

What is clear to me is that these actions have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with politics and a desire to introduce Trumpian grass roots movements to New Zealand. I don't like it but have to concede that there are those with different political views to me who have the right to air their disapproval. 

What if it turns into a super spreader? It concerns me and I don't have the answers but we need to hold fire on our personal judgements and think through what it would mean if our democracy was threatened. The officials have a challenging case study and I'll continue to watch with interest. 

Why Labour can't win on the 1pm updates (so they must continue)

60 new cases in New Zealand today. 

It's not great news but the National Party seems to be most concerned with the lack of a 1pm stand up press conference. Which seems quite contradictory to the position of the last few weeks where the government was criticised for grand standing in the new prime time news slot. Talkback was calling for the 1pm updates to stop, the Greens wanted new, diverse, voices to be added and, "anyone but Aunty Cindy" became a Facebook catch cry. 

Spin. 

The negative term ascribed to communications that someone doesn't agree with. 

The current government has been accused of lacking transparency. So Labour increased communications resources. Then, the government is accused of spin and onboarding Spin Doctors. Newstalk ZB even went so far as to point the finger at Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director General of Health, for "spinning for the government".  

So what's the answer?  As a former public health communications manager myself (see also Spin Doctor) I can tell you there isn't one. 

But here's a few things to note. First, the 1pm update is not a press conference. It's a live, public address to the nation with critical public health and other information that the Team of 5 Million need to hear. There are media in attendance to amplify the messages through mainstream media. The question time is token and laughable, don't pay it too much attention. Second, like it or not, Jacinda Ardern is our current national leader and it's her job to communicate to the people of New Zealand. Yes she has a communications degree (we both went to Waikato) and that has equipped her for the very complex task of turning up, and getting across messages that keep the nation cohesive. It's a very difficult thing to achieve at scale and of course she needs a team of paid advisors. To think that our leader would simply 'wing it' without messaging is simple minded. Third, there will always be tension between official channels and the varying opinions on both mainstream and social media. The 1pm creates an official information source and a relatively safe environment for critical public health messaging. 

The Labour Party is beginning to get spooked by the blow back to 1pm and they need to push on and continue with regular public addresses. It's not spin, it's good communications and yes I agree with National, there should have been one today.