Our thinking throughout the inquiry has been informed by the wealth of information we received through our community engagement processes. We heard from a range of people, but many themes we heard were consistent.
We heard that communities want to be part of Public sector and local government decision-making processes that affect them in order to create and realise their visions for the future. They want genuine engagement, with a strong wish to collaborate on policy, programmes and service delivery, particularly when it comes to addressing the safety and security of New Zealand and concerns that are directly relevant to them. An important element is Public sector agencies building long-term and meaningful relationships with communities, and informing communities of the results of their contributions and what, if any, change has occurred.
In addition to this, the value of community organisations and other non-government sectors being involved in decision-making on issues relating to their communities needs to be recognised by Public sector agencies. The expertise that can be offered by those whom the decisions will affect should be respected and valued.
There is a lack of cultural and linguistic competence and a poor understanding of the implications of New Zealand’s increasingly diverse demographics in Public sector agencies. These barriers appear to hinder respectful and appropriate engagement with communities and affect agencies’ ability to understand what people’s concerns mean for those agencies. For the Public sector to effectively serve communities and respond to their concerns, it needs to equip and empower its workforce to better understand and reflect the diversity of New Zealand society. We acknowledge the work underway but encourage further action. In Part 9: Social cohesion and embracing diversity and Part 10: Recommendations we talk more about this.
Despite the collective support New Zealand communities provided to those directly affected by the terrorist attack, the Public sector system of support has been found wanting by many. The 15 March 2019 terrorist attack demonstrated that Public sector systems of support need to have sufficient flexibility to adapt to a variety of different circumstances and the specific recovery needs of the affected communities. Affected communities need to be more actively engaged (in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner) in the design and development of short, medium and longer-term Recovery plans to ensure their physical, medical, psychological, financial, cultural, emotional and other wellbeing needs will be met. Part 10: Recommendations discusses this further.
New Zealand is generally viewed in a positive light, but many personal experiences demonstrated to us that harmful, hateful and discriminatory behaviour remains commonplace. A loving, embracing side of New Zealand society was brought to the fore immediately after the terrorist attack, but also exposed has been less attractive parts of New Zealand society.
A recurrent theme was that fostering a society in which New Zealand’s diverse demographic makeup is embraced, and harmful and hateful behaviours are not accepted, would minimise the need for legal intervention. More than this, embracing diversity has broader benefits and recognises the values that people from diverse backgrounds bring to a society. Embracing diversity will support diversity of thought, and may lead to existing societal norms being challenged. All New Zealanders have a role to play in bringing about societal change. Part 9: Social cohesion and embracing diversity and Part 10: Recommendations discuss this further.