Happy Biketober! I hope you have a fun month… But as we mentioned yesterday, it’s also a time to mourn the passing of a great local advocate Dirk de Lu. One of the things that Dirk was prolific at was the production and presentation of a great many submissions on behalf of Spokes Canterbury. So it seems timely this week to repeat a post (first posted in Sep 2014) from another experienced submitter Chrys Horn about why submissions are an important part of the democratic process. I hope that many of us will honour Dirk’s legacy by continuing to make submissions on things that we are passionate about…
To support the development of great cycling infrastructure in Christchurch, and even around New Zealand, one of the most effective things you can do is write letters and submissions and take time to go and present your submission where you can.
A good way to start writing submissions is to keep in touch with the Cycling Action Network and Spokes Canterbury (or any other interest groups) and see what they are writing. Spokes aim to write, well-reasoned submissions based on good research and experience from around the world. By reading their submissions, and blog posts and, if you can talking with people active in this area, writing your own submission becomes easier.
You get much better mileage from your work when you present a submission. When you write a submission, it generally gets read by a back room worker who summarises the submissions into a table or similar for easy assimilation by those involved in finalising the document. Your message can sometimes get summarised out of existence!
By presenting your submission, YOU can summarise your main points and the decision-makers will get to engage with what you say a lot more than if they just read a two line summary.
Another good reason to present is that you might just use a turn of phrase that helps a listener to understand a point that they have essentially heard many times before. For example, I gave a presentation for Spokes, highlighting the fact that spending on cycling now, would save money on roading in the future – something we had been saying for years. Something in the way I said it on the day helped a councillor understand and ask a question. Other councillors then picked up on it and asked more. Then, because of that discussion, a journalist in the room put it into The Press the next day. We got great mileage from a single 5 minute presentation!
So in summary – while we are often told that submissions are not a numbers game, in fact having more than one submission, from a range of people, making a point is far more effective than a single submission sent from an organisation representing many people. Likewise, your submission is more likely to be heard and understood if you present it.
So get out there, have a go at writing a submission, and if your have the opportunity to present it then take it – even if it feels a bit daunting. It is also a good way to get to know something about how decisions are made and who your decision-makers are.