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July 29, 2019 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Passion: Josh Trlin is Running For Council


Josh Trlin: Porirua City Council Northern Ward

Josh kicked off the interview by immediately emphasising the importance of diverse representation on the Porirua City Council. Citing the many issues facing young people in the city, he argued that they couldn’t be properly prioritised until young voices are heard on council.


These issues? Housing, climate change, and mental health.


However, he is also passionate about issues facing the city that aren’t challenges specific to younger generations—in particular, public transport and the harbour.


Climate Change

Josh was clear on his vision for climate action, a long-term adaptation strategy. The strategy would need to be “more than ticking boxes” and should instead be “bold and comprehensive”.


So what does “bold and comprehensive” mean? To Josh, who submitted on Porirua’s recently declared climate emergency, it needs to push past the mere “statement of intent” the declaration represents. 


Boldness would mean the strategy would be based on a worst-case scenario assumption, where policy would be derived from the Ministry for the Environment’s prediction of 1 metre sea level rise by the year 2100, or the UN’s 2 metre prediction. 


He compared it to earthquake strengthening standards, where if councils only mandated standards for the lower end of the richter scale, and a larger (but still likely) earthquake struck, the council would be called out as irresponsible.


Comprehensiveness would mean that the strategy would be omnipresent in council decision-making. All spending on infrastructure, city planning, public transport, water quality, and everything else, would be run past the policy. It would also mean the strategy would not only be about adaptation, but mitigation as well.


Josh illustrated the point with reference to the large residential developments in the city and the proximity of key economic and social infrastructure. Housing, for example, may have to have building standards adjusted to reflect the possibly unsafe temperatures in dwellings following climate change.


The Harbour

Another environmental issue for Josh was the Porirua Harbour. The harbour already sees excessive silt build-up and pollution from overloaded waste and stormwater systems. 


Josh asserts that this will only worsen with housing developments in the area, climate change, and underinvestment in the relevant infrastructure.


He acknowledged the complexity of the issues surrounding the harbour, saying, “I don’t know what the answers are.” However, he did suggest more investment in storm/wastewater systems, and more resources for finding solutions to the ecological problems in particular.


Public Transport

As a City Council candidate, Josh faces the same problems as Teri O’Neill when trying to resolve the area’s public transport woes. That is, it’s not actually the role of City Council to run it, it’s the responsibility of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. 


Luckily, Josh is not only aware of the problems particular to Porirua, but has some solutions, and even ways to work around the ‘responsibility gap’.


The biggest issues for public transport in Porirua, according to Josh, are frequency and reach. He suggested that this has greater impact on areas like the Eastern Porirua which has been “left behind in terms of socio-economic development”. 


The failure of reach and frequency has a number of flow-on impacts. For example, he pointed out, with the hospital. Infrequent services and high costs of transport make accessing the key healthcare provider in the area prohibitive.


The problem also related to “the majority of commuters who live in the city but work in Wellington”. Josh’s goal is to get them on trains, rather than driving in everyday.


The short answer to public transport? “More of it, and cheaper.”


Josh also outlined that although he would have no formal authority over the transport system as a city councillor, he’s committed to “liaising” with the Regional Council as a representative of his area. He pointed out that his Labour Party affiliation would make that easier.


Mental Health

Josh, like many of the candidates we talked to, described mental health as a crisis, and “particularly major for young people, and a particularly major issue in Porirua”.


Again, as a health issue, the District Health Board (rather than the City Council) is formally tasked with handling the problem. As such, Josh indicated a similar liaison and Labour network strategy as above for mental health.


However, he does believe that the council “can take leadership as well. There ^are things that council can be doing.”


His first suggestion was increasing the number of specialist mental health facilities. However, he argued that it could be more important, and more within the reach of the city council, to work on the underlying causes of mental illness.


In his words, “The strongest correlation between mental health and anything else, is the material conditions people live in.” 


For young people, Josh says this includes climate change anxiety, unaffordable housing, low spending power—and, to compound it—30 years of “hyper-individualisation; siloing ourselves off.”


The Campaign

When asked about the campaign so far, Josh said he “hadn’t quite appreciated the range of issues people wanted to talk about”. Conversations with residents often wandered into areas not related to local politics. However, as he pointed out, these conversations were still important as an exercise in expressing and applying values.


“Values” came up a lot in the interview, particularly when asked about his decision to run on the Labour Party ticket. Josh’s Labour membership runs back to 2013, where he’s been a proud and active member at a number of levels in the party.


The decision to run on the ticket came down to a question of “honesty and values” for Josh. Not only do his values align with those of the party, but it would be dishonest for him to run independent, given his ties and other associations with the party.


Overall, Josh said that being a Labour candidate “is about manifesting those values within the local body context.


To The Haters

If Josh loses, his commitment to young voices in local governance is unlikely to waver. He expressed his keenness to make people feel heard and empowered. In particular, first-time voters and the large majority of Porirua residents who don’t vote in local body elections.


He’s also happy in the knowledge that if he doesn’t win the Northern Ward seat, there are two other young candidates who could take the win. An outcome he described as “fantastic”.


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