Child Friendly

The Times article and editorial about the Friendly brand seems to have generated a bit of interest.

I actually joined the Child, Youth and Family Friendly committee as a community member before I was elected to council. Once elected I was able to stay on.

The CYFF Committee came about as a result of the Blumsky report which identified Child Friendly as a strength for the city and a recommended brand. This was based on the survey and research done by Blumsky which identified the 12 things people liked most about Invercargill which included – affordable housing; great sport facilities; easy commuting; strong sense of community; family friendly; pace of life; safe city; wide range of recreational activities.

From that report a policy was developed by council and the committee formed and the Friendly brand started. In the council policy it states: “The council wishes to see a ‘family lens’ placed over all policies, strategies and initiatives undertaken and supported by the council.”

Move forward to 2016 and the committee as a result of a workshop suggested a change in approach was needed. On re-reading the Blumsky report it is clear that the development of  brand should not have been a priority. Actually what should have been a priority was highlighting how the city is child friendly.

“Experience has shown with city and country branding that if you attempt to manufacture the brand, instead of creating an environment and infrastructure that will promote the vision, you are almost certain to fail. You need to back up any brand with tangible physical proof and support.”

As a committee we have discussed the Blumsky report and the point of difference child friendly can provide. We know there is anecdotal evidence that supports this idea. For example international students with families wish to stay in Invercargill because it is a safe place for their children – safer than their home countries and safer than other parts of NZ like Auckland. We also know that young Southlanders are moving back to Invercargill to raise their families.

Clearly being child friendly is just part of the picture whole picture. Child friendly is not the concept to be used to attract tourists here for holidays so doesn’t need to be our tourism brand. But child friendly could be the concept that encourages people to think about bringing their families here to live. The Blumsky report along with the quality of life surveys done by Our Way Southland reinforce this message. What better way to help increase our population?

So this is why I advocate for the child friendly concept as a council priority and something the council should have more of a focus on.

I should also point out that I believe that if we concentrate on child friendly we are also friendly to everyone else – making sure things are accessible for people with push chairs means they will be accessible for mobility scooters and wheel chairs; having safe places for cycling for children will mean we have safe places for cycling for everyone; and ensuring we have facilities suitable for kids means we will have facilities suitable for anyone.

So the committee is now looking at how we can better implement the child friendly policy as we feel that to date we have not fulfilled the wish from the policy that a ‘family lens’ be placed over all policies, strategies and initiatives.

What do I mean by that? Well if a policy is coming to council for discussion then we should always consider whether that policy is child friendly. The same goes for other decisions the council needs to make such as the closing of playground or the purchase of Rugby Park or the development of a dry gym at Splash Palace.

If this kind of attitude and approach becomes the norm at a council level it will filter through. We will make decisions that support the child friendly concept and people, groups and businesses will start to notice and value it also.

Being child friendly is a strength of this city, one that can be built on and compliment the other stories we tell ourselves about why Invercargill is a great place to live.

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