Time to hit the road; with deep reflections of the first night - with the feedback from the team and attendees of:
“How might we give more opportunity for discussion?”
“How can we allow for the gathering to be a positive but realistic conversation/korero about our Land & Water.”
“Allow for more heart-sharing & rather than factual or sharing concerns that we already know about.”
With the constructive feedback, we felt armed and prepared for Whangarei, where we can also reach the aspiration of talking to farmers, and those nearer to the issues.
A part of the overall project was not only to gather people in each of the areas, but to capture stories of individuals or organisations that are working in this area, and showcase innovations or solutions that currently exist, though potentially not as celebrated.
First up, we organised to meet Marijke from Otamatea Eco-Village just outside of Kaiwaka.
We were given the instructions to follow a path down till you see a turret. Unassumingly, we travelled to path then only to find undoubtingly a turret a part of Marijke’s House. Surrounded by a beautiful garden, workshops, and ponies.
She greeted us warmly, and welcomed us in, where we asked her to share her thoughts on the Land & Water, and to share a bit of the story of how the Eco-Village started and what it means to her.
She talked about the power a small group of people coming together to share their visions for how they wish to live and see the land used. Admittedly she talked about how even though the Eco-Village attracts a particular type of person, there’s still disagreement on particular issues that some people feel more stronger about than others.
She continued to share the practicalities of living in the way that they do, saying it’s “common-sense really…” and that it’s about “Building to the landscape…”
All of which you could see she embodied, as she explained her house took 10 years to build, with all the wood being recycled, and a large 3-4 meter tiled lizard, that took her 3 years to make. Though not inspired by Hunterwassen, she did have a piece that was in homage of Hunterwassen.
She then took us to a lookout from her house, as she explained about water run off and the need for catchment ponds.
After Marijke, we continued our journey to Whangarei, on the way we stopped in Hikurangi to meet Allan. Allan, was recommended to us, for his tree planting projects along waterways. Allan when asked by Tui - what do you see as the most effective solutions going forward around keeping our environment protected. Replied honestly and with a heart-felt plea “The next government needs to wake up, realise Water is life…. Without water we’re screwed.”
Allan took us to a stop bank in the middle of a number of dairy farms. He told us this once used to be largest swamp in the southern hemisphere.
Allan gave us insights into the views of a rural farmer, the challenges, the opportunities, and the struggles of feeling undervalued or underrepresented at a decision making level.
With that we headed to the Whangarei RSA, in anticipation for who will show up, what will be brought up, and what tensions, struggles and stories will emerge.
The RSA, was quite a bit different to the Flagship Venue in Auckland, very classic look, very old-school carpet and chairs, made for quite a serious looking circle.
Before we knew it, there were people filing through the double doors, to come into the room.
Within the matter of minutes the room was filled up, with a demographic vastly different to the one in Auckland. There was a more mature audience, with the average age in Auckland being 30, and in Whangarei probably around 45.
One of the first attendees to walk through was the panelist Hona Edwards, who took one look at our team, and respectfully asked where we were all from and where we were brought up. Then raised the question, no Maori on your team? Of which we replied no, and affirmed the importance of representation not only of the demographic of the people we’re bringing together but the people who are bringing them together.
Hona was excited to be a part of the conversation, and offered to bless the food and start the evening with a prayer.
On the panel we had:
Richard Booth talked about the advances they’ve been making in farming. The planting that has been done alongside the streams and waterways, and the positive work farmers are doing. That the blame can’t keep being put on farmers, because many are doing great work. There are a lot that are not listening and the work should be done on bringing those people into the conversation.
Helen talked about DairyNZ and the work that she does with farmers, helping them to make the right decisions for their land. She spoke of what she hears from farmers on a daily basis. And that many of these farmers really are trying to do good work but things can’t be done instantly, things take time as there are big processes to change. She spoke of how hard it is for the farmers feeling a lot of this blame. Through Helen’s talking the conversation of Forestry came up from the audience, and it was stated by a number of people that they see that above all other forms of farming forestry is having the greatest effect on the environment. It became apparent that we had no one representing this voice in the room.
Soozee spoke about her work at Whitebait connection, working with children on projects planting waterways. She spoke of the perspective her work in this space has brought her.
Millan Ruka talked about the work he has been doing for years, patrolling rivers and working to ensure that farmers are meeting the criteria asked of them. A majority of this is reporting on rivers and streams being fouled by unfenced cattle. He spoke of the hurt he feels for our natural bodies. Millan was incredibly open and helpful in supporting the conversation that we were bringing up.
Following Millan, Helen and Stuart, we heard from Hona - who began with a call to action for individuals and as a collective to create solutions. Though he also suggested that the policy makers and decision makers are to blame for our environment suffering. Hona talked about the work that he has done saving Tuna. He spoke of we can do as community, coming together, having these conversations and deciding collectively what we want and then using our vote in this way. This was very timely with the upcoming election.
During Millan’s talk, Richard and Helen, were attempting to correct Millan on some facts, which he was open to receiving. Though he was then was backed up by other members of the circle, that reiterated to the Dairy NZ and Farmer advocating for the struggles to abide by regulations, that his work was being done on his own waka down the river, and the regulatory body was being kept alive by contracts that Fonterra provide.
Slightly heated, we let the conversation and conflict, play out as it didn’t seem personal.
Following quickly after that sentiment, a member of the circle brought up our tendency in situations like this, to label, blame and shame groups of people, and invited us to rather than jump to prejudice, to reserve our judgement and look positively towards what we can do collectively.
This led to Kiran inviting the group to think about what we could do as next steps; though before Kiran could finish with the request, he was interrupted by another member of the circle who said “I will not be satisfied if we had this korero then nothing happens after this” she called upon the group to put up their hands, asking “who wants to volunteer to bring the group together again.”
There was some affirming nods, and Kiran than requested that rather than us as an organising team, as ‘outsiders’ to the community hold that, allow for the community group to take responsibility for that.
It was well received, and after some nominating, a group of 5 was formed, who agreed to meet after our hui to organise when the next gathering was to happen. As well as the core group forming, an email list was being passed around.
Whangarei came out in force, there was a strong representation from local hapu, and community groups. We had a diverse panel, with a local environmentalists, a representative from Dairy NZ, and an organic dairy farmer.
The opening circle was another beautiful example of story sharing, as the hui started with forming the common ground, and acknowledging that we gather because of their individual and collective love for NZ land & water.
There wasn’t representation from the forestry industry, who were brought up as scapegoats for ‘Our Dirty Rivers’.
It was said that this was the first time, that these local groups came together, and could hear each other out. There was a number of connections, and ideas for people to link up together in the future, and get to know about local projects to strengthen the communities action for cleaning up their environment.
More importantly, there was diverse perspectives that were honoured, respected and heard. It not only allowed the individual feel heard, it created an opportunity for genuine and meaningful whakawhanaungatanga, that they can build, create from in their next gatherings.
With a satisfying night at the “Razza”, we head back to Auckland, for before our long drive down south to Palmerston North.
See the vlog for day two here. Read more about day three here:
More on the panelists:
Dairy farmer and horticulturalist (avocados) who is Titoki born and raised 59 years with a family farm into its third generation. Richard has had a number of off farm roles: Northland Dairy Co director, Dairy Board director, Fonterra director, Delta Produce director, Kaipara District Council Commissioner, Northpower director, Mangakahia rugby president. His farm focus is Generational transfer and sustainability and Continuous improvement.
Environment River Patrol – Aotearoa was established in 2010 due to my uncle and I having great concerns for the wellbeing of our rivers and streams in Te Tai Tokerau / Northland.
"We have seen our once pristine Wairua and Mangakahia Rivers turn into polluted ditches. They carry enormous amounts of effluent, nutrients and sediment from dairy and beef farms from the upper catchments down to smother our Kaipara Harbour. Our journey has carried us on to kaitiaki our tuna (eels) and awa all over our region of the Northland Regional Council (NRC) here in New Zealand. We walk, paddle and motor boat our rivers and streams and seek where pollution is causing “detrimental effects” to our waterways. We report to authorities & NRC with GPS mapped photos and assessment reports. We make the point that we do not deal direct to the farmer or identify them. The mapped photos identify the location of the reports. What we see is a vast amount of dairy and beef farms still not fenced off to waterways. Cattle are able to foul up to, and into the water and also cause high sedimentation that all flows on to our harbours. Unfenced beef are a major problem, as they are not required to be fenced off in the Regional Policy and beef farmers are not signatories to the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord 2013. Dairy farms are increasing their effluent discharge consents and many klms of their smaller streams are unfenced. Our tuna (eels) are in crisis, their habitat and water quality are in severe decline. ERP-A also does assessment reports on new and existing consents that have an effect on our tuna and the environmental well-being of our waterways." Our hapu owned Poroti Springs has also become a focus of ERPs resources to kaitaki te waipuna, te awa for all New Zealanders.“He waka eke noa. A canoe which we are all in with no exception. We are all in this together.”
Born in Invercargill in 1958, grew up in Nelson and some random European cites. A gardener at heart, scientist and educator by occupation, Soozee has worked on environmental projects in Northland since moving here in the 1980s. Delivering the Whitebait Connection programme around the north since 2011 has brought experience of working with schools, marae and community and the opportunity to indulge a passion for growing native plants for riparian restoration.
Hona Edwards was born in Whangarei and grew up in Poroti, Motatau. He joined the New Zealand Defence Force, and served for two years, based in Singapore and Hong Kong. Post his military service, Hona married and has two sons, two daughters and three ātaahua mokopuna. Hona is active in Te Ao Maori, and serves on many committees, trusts and advisory groups representing his hapu in Mangakahia, Whangarei, and Northland communities.
"From the very beginning, It was embedded in me, of my responsibility to the taiao,(environment) by my elders. They whom lived on and breathed in, the aroha (gifts) of the taiao ( environment). You see from their perspective, if you protect, respect, and nurture the taiao ( environment), then the taiao would do the same for you.
My immediate driver, in my commitment to a healthier taiao, is my children and grandchildren, and future generations beyond them. I am committed to doing my absolute best, while I am able, and with whomever, to protect, respect, and nurture our taiao, because of them."
Born and raised on a sheep and beef farm in Wellsford, Helen Moodie has worked as a soil conservator for the Auckland Regional Council, as the Northland Regional Coordinator for the NZ Landcare Trust, as the coordinator for the Northland Rural Support Trust and most recently as a Consulting Officer and Catchment Engagement Leader for DairyNZ. This fits well with her commitment to the importance of environmental leadership coming from within the dairy industry, and her passion for Northland. She is also secretary for Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum and very involved with its Backyard Kiwi project.