NAVIGATING IN A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY

One of the things I have been talking about since being on council is the need for a more strategic approach. I mean a couple of things by this. First, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be sidetracked by funding opportunities. Whakatāne District Council is good at prying money out of government hands but it has a cost. We cannot afford to spend time and energy on things that don’t take us where we are trying to go. We need to clearly define, with our communities, what our priorities are, and only seek funding for things that fit those priorities.
Secondly, we live in a time of great uncertainty. Perhaps all generations do, but the pace of change seems to be speeding up. We face real challenges with climate change and resource depletion. There is growing instability from worsening poverty and inequality. Then we have Covid, with all its implications. We need to think strategically about how to face an uncertain future and what our communities need if we want to thrive in a changing world.
Because thrive we can. Our district has huge positives, from fertile soils, to flowing waters, to a rich cultural tapestry, to creative and resilient peoples, to a population willing and able to help itself. The question for council is how we can help rather than hinder those qualities.
In 2020 and 2021 I facilitated a series of workshops with councillors to identify a high level vision and some key priorities. We thought a lot about council’s role, because it is a large organisation that does lots of different things, from planning and consent processing, to running swimming pools, to building roads, to keeping the taps flowing. The purpose of all of that is to enhance the well-being of our communities. We summed that up with the words MORE LIFE IN LIFE – working together to make living better for our communities, now and in the future. This has always been a place of abundance. By working together we can ensure that our descendants enjoy a plentiful future.

To do this we need strong, connected, interdependent, diverse communities. The resilience of our local communities is obvious with every natural disaster, but different communities have different characteristics. This includes real poverty in some, as a result of raupatu and nearly 40 years of neo-liberalism. We need to serve all communities in ways that are relevant for them. We can support connectedness through spatial planning, affordable housing development, good infrastructure, by supporting events and clubs that bring people together, and through civic engagement and fair representation. Interdependence comes out of this connectedness, with the recognition that we are in it together. He waka eke noa.
Council needs to be much better at working constructively and collaboratively with whānau, hapū and iwi. Mana whenua were here as political entities long before our council and they will continue to be here long after it. They are wrapped up in the very identity of half of our population. They control significant resources and they have economic, social and cultural aspirations for their people and the wider district. They act as kaitiaki of their ancestral areas, for the good of all, and they have statutory recognition in a number of Acts of Parliament. Recognising their mana is simply acknowledging those facts.

Local government has a very poor history when it comes to acting against the interests of Māori. We need to repair a relationship that we have damaged. One thing is for sure – we can only truly thrive as a district if we are able to work together towards some shared aspirations.
To do this, and to ensure an abundant future for our descendants, we need to integrate nature into our decision-making. We have to do more than green-washing. This is both about specific programmes, such as the climate change initiatives I have written about before, and about how we design all our activities. As an example we are starting to look at how flood control drains can be rethought as habitat for native species, an example of biophilic design.

An economic system that supports rather than degrades nature is also possible, with a thriving circular economy. I have written about this before but basically a linear economy takes a resource, extracts it, uses it once and then throws it away. A circular economy keeps resources in circulation for as long as possible. It looks at the sustainability of the source of that resource, how it is used, how it is circulated within the economy, and at the end of life how it can be returned to nature in a beneficial way

But it’s not just about the materials. How do we keep money circulating in our local economy rather than draining out? How do we provide education that leads to well paid satisfying work so that our young people don’t need to move away? How well can we meet local needs when things like Covid disrupt supplies? As a large organisation Council is looking at how our procurement spending can better support a local circular economy. We have also been assisting local business planning during Covid and with government funded Kia Kaha and Provincial Growth Fund money.

All of these things are about having a council that is able to face the 21st century with a clear focus rather than reacting with confusion. Our vision and priorities were agreed unanimously by councillors last year, and now we are working on bringing them alive through the whole organisation. It takes time, but we have started.

(First published in the Whakatāne Beacon 28 Jan 2022)

Whakatāne District Council votes for vaccine pass for council facilities

Yesterday Whakatāne District Council voted 10 – 1 to require a vaccination pass to enter all Council facilities excluding parks, reserves, playgrounds, cemeteries, the Murupara outdoor pool, and public toilets that are not inside a Council facility. This sets out why I voted the way I did. It is not my speech word for word, more like a mash up of the 2 different times I spoke.

—————————————————————————————————–

I want to start by reminding us of the context of this discussion. NZ has had very low rates of covid infection to date. This has allowed us to keep fatalities low, as health services have been able to cope. This is very different from many other places where health services have been overwhelmed by covid cases.

This is now changing, and our national strategy is changing as well, as infections are increasing. I don’t envy Central Government decision-makers, who have to balance people’s civil and human rights, with the right to life, and their obligations to protect the community. I haven’t agreed with all their decisions, but I think we have to start from a basis that they are trying their best to balance those different needs. But it is difficult, and our very success has made NZers complacent. Add to that the misinformation that is circulating, often originating in overseas interests who want NZ to fail.

So we have to be very careful who we listen to. Councillor Silcock mentioned a doctor who has been talking about the rise of suicides in Auckland as a result of lockdown. I’d love to know where those figures come from because I’ve just looked up the latest report on suicide rates from the Chief Coroner and that is not true. Suicide rates have been down for the last two years. Those figures only go to June, but still cover a significant period of lockdown. Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Shaun Robinson has criticised speculation on increased suicides saying “We are aware of increased levels of distress, especially in Auckland, where lockdown is taking its toll on the wellbeing of so many people. But speculation that this will lead to increases in suicide is unfounded.”

I understand the concerns. At the start of this pandemic I was vaccine hesitant, but I have had to have a hard look at the science, at the peer reviewed studies and the advice of public health experts who have spent their lives trying to save lives. We councillors are not epidemiologists – none of us. As people in positions of responsibility should we take our advice from actual epidemiologists and public health experts, the vast majority of whom are in clear agreement, or should we just follow whatever we read on social media? Obviously we have to listen to the actual evidence, and the evidence is very clear.

Being vaccinated doesn’t mean you cannot get covid or transmit it.
Being vaccinated carries some risk of adverse side effects. But despite what you might think from social media algorithms, significant side effects are rare.

The risks from getting covid are much higher. There seems to be around 1 or 2 deaths per hundred covid cases – which is quite a lot of people if covid spreads significantly. Around 1 in 3 have serious long term side effects.

One in three.

Vaccine risks are very low compared to that.

Vaccinated people CAN get covid but unvaccinated people are much more likely to. Obviously that means they are much more likely to infect others. Being unvaccinated also means that people’s symptoms are likely to be far worse – they much more likely to have serious impacts or die. But that’s a risk people can decide for themselves. That’s got nothing to do with us as a council. What we DO need to pay attention to is the risk to others.

So when it comes to being vaccinated, people have a choice. But choices also have consequences. To use Councillor Luca’s analogy, people can choose to smoke tobacco, which increases their risks of all kinds of serious health issues, and that is their right. But they do not have a right to smoke inside, in places that put others at risk. In fact we have banned such behaviour as a country.

So we must always remember the purpose of any restrictions, which is not to punish people for their choices, but should only be to reduce significant risk to others. People who choose to not be vaccinated should not be given unnecessary or unreasonable restrictions. It’s worth recalling that government regulations say that you cannot be asked to provide your Vaccine Pass to access basic services, such as supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations, public transport, pharmacies and essential health care.

I’ve had lots of emails in the last couple of days about how valued council services are – which is great to hear. We provide really important functions and facilities. But restrictions aren’t based on how much people value our services – they are based on what is the best way to keep our community safer.

So I support the amendment to exclude open spaces from vaccine passes, as the risk of transmission in those situations is much lower. I will move an amendment to explicitly exclude the Murupara Pool as well, as that is a predominantly outdoor facility with a low density of users. Additionally I would like us to state clearly that we are committed to maintaining our services for all members of the community, vaccinated and unvaccinated, by providing alternative means of access where this is practical.

But lets remember that if our staff do get infected, they are likely to spread it to a lot of people because most of our staff engage with many different people. We do not want council facilities to become super spreader locations. In addition as councillors we have legal and ethical obligations to our staff, to not put them at undue risk and to provide a safe working environment, as far as possible.

So Whakatāne is going into the new traffic light system at red. We have recent infections and low rates of vaccination compared to other parts of the country. This puts our health services capability, in particular our ICU beds, under threat. This is not just a concern for covid cases but for all those people that will have treatment delayed or cancelled if covid cases are taking up resources. So we need to do what we can to support reasonable public health measures in a time of pandemic.

So it seems self evident to me that we need to introduce a vaccination pass system. If we don’t, some of our facilities will have to close entirely. It seems unfair to deny access to all because a small number choose not to get vaccinated. It is also likely that many vaccinated people will avoid our facilities if we do not have a vaccination pass system in place. Again that seems like an unfair outcome.

Finally I’ll say that I am aware that some of our frontline staff are already getting abuse for trying to enforce the previous guidelines. I trust they will get the support they need to handle this kind of aggression, and I ask people who disagree with the decision we are making today to not take it out on staff. Talk to those of us who made the decision.

Thank you.

Tagged ,

WDC climate change journey – my address to the Bay of Plenty Mayoral Forum

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today to share some of our story about our climate change journey.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time with graphs and numbers. That is pretty dull conversation unless you’re a specialist and those are easily available from our website or by contacting our staff, who are all very keen to work with and support other councils. I thought it would be more interesting and helpful to talk about the human dynamics that shaped our journey.

Prior to 2016 if you looked at the WDC website you wouldn’t have seen anything about climate change. A search might have turned up a reference at the back of a planning document but there was no evidence that the council as an organisation understood the implications of climate change or that it was thinking strategically about how to either reduce local emissions or adapt to the climatic and ecosystem changes that are already baked in.

The problem, frankly, was political. There were a number of staff that were intensely interested in the issue with a base of knowledge and skill to work from, but there was a lack of understanding or will at the political level. Staff had developed off their own bat a sustainability strategy but it went nowhere.

Whakatāne District Council’s journey with Climate Change is, more than anything, a story about the power of unleashing talented staff on a challenging problem.

How we began

The journey began almost informally in the last term of council. A steering group was set up with hazy mandate, but it comprised senior staff at tiers 2 and 3 who put their hand up for it, and I was invited to chair. We brought in people from across the organisation, and this has been one of the features to this day, that we have taken a whole of organisation approach, recognising that all of our areas of activity have a part of play.

We also had a project group, that allowed staff at a lower level in the organisation to be involved and input into the program.

We spent a bit of time trying to define our understanding of the issue. One of the difficulties is the high levels of uncertainty. We know that we are warming the planet and we understand in broad terms some of what that means, but we do not know where the tipping points are, or exactly what the implications will be at a very local level. In fact I think one of the responsibilities of civic organisations like councils is to help our communities understand as best we can what the local effects will be, so they can start to make better decisions as they plan and go forward.

Because of that uncertainty it is important we take an adaptive approach – dynamic adaptive pathways they call it – where we try to make decisions that leave options open for the future as much as possible. So we decided that we needed to start with developing the principles that would inform decision-making.

At the same time, because of the lack of political leadership from Wellington at that time, LGNZ and some TAs were picking up the slack. The Mayoral Declaration on Climate Change, which was signed by our then Mayor Tony Bonne, was quite helpful in articulating some of the principles that we adapted into our draft climate change principles.

The other influential event was the Edgecumbe floods, which I think sharpened people’s thinking around what climate change might mean for a district like ours – generally low lying, at risk of sea level rise and inundation, with large areas of flood prone land protected by stopbanks. That’s without mentioning the fire risk with our large areas of plantation pine forest.

We joined up with the CEMARS programme (not known as Toitū) which helped us to understand our carbon equivalent profile

And we developed a set of 6 principles

1. We will act now.

This included commitments to emissions reduction, showing leadership in our community, and to change how we operate as an organisation

2. We will protect the environment
Which included some specific commitments around transport, resource use, procurement, biodiversity and circular economies

3. We will acknowledge those most affected
Recognising that the impacts of climate fall disproportionately on the poor, and often on the people who have least contributed to it

4. We will think long term
Acknowledging that climate change impact projections often stop at an arbitrary year but the impacts will continue to grow for centuries

5. We will learn
Recognising different knowledge bases, including positivist science, mātauranga māori and local knowledge. It is important to stay abreast of changing understandings and we have rolled out an education program among staff and councillors to get people onto the same level of understanding. We have also invested in sending key people to advanced training and education.

6. We will be part of the solution
In which we commit to working collaboratively with stakeholders in our communities, with other local authorities, and on a national and internation basis.

We took our climate change principles to our council, which signed them off for consultation. We engaged fairly deeply and got a very good response, perhaps especially from young people. We used our community engagement to gauge what our communities knew about climate change, understand where they got their information from and identify what they saw as trusted sources of information. While we had a small but significant minority of people who were still locked in denialism about climate change, the overwhelming response was enthusiasm for council to try to grapple with this stuff and a clear message to be stronger in our approach.

This term of the council the Strategy and Policy Committee, which I chair, has been given a specific delegation around climate change, and has supported the development of a set of strategies, targets and action plans.


Again these went out to our community for feedback and again the general response has been for us to be more ambitious.

As part of the work towards implementing our action plans we have sought outside advice. We have used EMSOL to do an energy audit, and continue to consult with them. There hs been a lot of interest in solar PV on council buildings, which avoid having to invest in a lot of battery storage because the energy is used during the day as it is produced. Although our civic centre refurbishment will include some PV as a showpiece for the community, we buy our energy at such a good rate, and most NZ energy is renewable anyway, that the business case is not as compelling as less visible changes, such as an energy management system. There are many relatively small actions that can be taken which pay for the investment within 5 or so years. Who would not invest in a 20% return on investment?

We also listen to the community, because there is enormous expertise available if we do. For example one general manager was really keen on solar for our swimming pool. It took a sharp eyed enthusiast to recognise that this would increase emissions because they were least productive when we most needed the heat, and so would rely on gas back up during winter. An energy efficient heat pump turned out to be a better solution in terms of overall emissions, and cost.

In fact our swimming pool has been the real star of our organisation, with the manager really taking on board the recommendations from EMSOL and implementing a series of changes that have massively reduced the carbon emissions from our swimming pools.

The other thing I’ll mention is our fleet management advice, which has given us a process for changing out ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles with hybrids or electric over a period of time – where this is viable. We have a number of vehicle, especially in the roading team, where there are no viable hybrid alternatives at this time. We expect this to change.

As I have said the key to the program has been a whole-of council approach, with clear and strong political leadership from our mayor and our councillors, strong support and mandate from our CE, and then working with people across the organisation who have the passion. It’s extraordinary what staff at all levels bring to the table when given the opportunity.

That has led us to winning the Trust Horizon Business Awards inaugural award for sustainability. I was told by one of the judges that they were highly impressed at the comprehensive and detailed approach taken by our council, and its a tribute to our whole staff.

Our next big challenge is how to begin to lead broader change across our community. My feeling is that the focus most be on helping those who already want to change, to identify their options. I think people in general do understand that a real transformation is needed, that we cannot keep doing what we have been doing. I think Covid has helped us understand that as well. As civic leaders we are in a unique position to be a catalyst for that change.

Thank you for your time.

Tagged

My thoughts on the Covid Vaccine

So either there is an actual virus sweeping the planet and killing millions of people – (as has happened before) and public health officials are trying to get everyone protected by vaccinating them as quickly as possible, and trying to stop people spreading disinformation that will lead to many unnecessary deaths

or

a global cabal of public health experts and doctors who have spent their lives learning how to prevent and treat disease are actually lying about how dangerous the virus is and/or about how best to treat it, and are conspiring to inject everyone with a killer substance, hiding the evidence, getting scientific journals to publish fabricated studies and suppressing more effective underground treatments because they want to… um… kill all the people? Sell masks?

One of these sounds more likely than the other.

But perhaps there is a third option.

There clearly is a Covid pandemic happening and it is scaring the kak out of medical people. In desperation to get a vaccination out, things were rushed. There were confused messages. That has left legitimate questions in some people’s minds, but in the concern to get people protected, tolerance for those questions has been low. All in all an unhelpful dynamic.

Many people are legitimately suspicious of pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer etc are in it to make money after all. They have the resources and expertise to develop the treatments, but they need to be kept in check by government regulators and good oversight. This is a constant tension. That’s why we need independent (peer reviewed) research, not company marketing.

Like all things, the vaccination carries risks. But it is clear from the independent research that the vaccination is a LOT safer than the virus, for most people. Websites that allow people to self-report side-effects can imply otherwise but not everyone who reports is telling the truth, and not all symptoms are caused by the vaccine. It’s best to rely on robust reports that test and investigate the data – which means Ministry figures. Unless you think that the entire medical profession (doctors, nurses, public health experts) are conspiring to hide vaccine deaths for some reason, which makes no sense to me.

At the same time, the relative risks for children and young people are not as clear. More solid information would be helpful.

But all in all the vaccine seems like the best response we have. Some people are touting unproven remedies, but what evidence there is seems to come from places desperate to try anything because they can’t get enough vaccine. I don’t see that they are better, more like an inferior alternative.

But I do agree with people who say that we should have more health promoting information from the Governmentl. Again, it’s not an alternative to the vaccine, but always good advice. We have to overstand health and well-being in its holistic fullness.

Then there is the politics. Some government’s have used this pandemic as an opportunity to cover up their incompetence and make a grab for power. In Aotearoa a few people have tried to drum up a following by playing this up, but as far as this country goes, it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. People have claimed that the Government has passed laws to make vaccination compulsory, or to force people to participate in medical experiments, or remove the Bill of Rights. I read the act. They haven’t.

Was the virus made in a lab? I’m not sure it matters. If you weren’t already horrified at micro-biological weapons research, what’s the difference? In any case, humanity has been due for a pandemic for a long time. We are out of balance with the rest of life and we either get IN balance, in a hurry, or we pay the price. This pandemic, or the next one, or food insecurity, or something else entirely will soon end this short lived civilisation if we do not radically transform it.

Perhaps what worries me most about this vaccination debate is all the confusion and disinformation. The ones who benefit from the babble are the people behind a REAL conspiracy – one well documented and well-known. The conspiracy to defend and protect a dysfunctional global economic system based on inequality and exploitation, that is destroying the web of life on which human existence depends.

Challenging THAT is much harder work than refusing a vaccine. It means we have to do more than share posts on Facebook or Twitter. It means we have to change ourselves and how we live, and it means we have to change the system that we are all so dependent on.

We urgently need to restore balance and harmony. That’s what we are here for, I&I, in this time.

Give thanks for Life!

Tagged , ,

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THESE WATER REFORMS?

There is a whole load of reform coming down the pipeline from central government at the moment. Its hard to keep on top of it all – Resource Management Act, environmental standards, drinking water standards, housing and development, and of course three waters reform.

The ‘three waters’ are: drinking water, waste water (mostly sewerage) and storm water. In the Whakatāne district these are provided by the district council. In most cases the costs are equalised – spread evenly across all the people who get them, no matter where they live, so everyone pays about the same for about the same service.

Like most places, the Whakatāne district is facing some big bills in the near future. Even though the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) rates the council’s performance on water as very good, most of our 3 waters schemes will not comply with changing environmental standards, or community expectations. It is this that is driving the bulk of the 6.9% rate rise this year.

Part of the problem is that some previous councils tried to keep rates down by not putting aside the money that would be needed, loading the problem on to the future. The question is whether our communities can now afford the bill. Regardless of whether you agree with the proposed changes or not (and I am personally not yet decided) it is important to understand the problem.

What is proposed?

These government proposals are not the final word (although they are getting firmer). They have said that councils have until 1st October to get our heads around the proposals and give feedback. An amended proposal will come out after that, with opportunities for the community to have a say before any final decisions are made. At this stage the council has not decided whether to be in or out of the reform.

The proposal is for 4 new water services providers to take over from the 67 councils that now own and run most of the water services. Whakatāne would be part of a water services entity that includes the Waikato region and goes south to a line stretching from around Waihau Bay to Whanganui.

This publicly owned entity would be big enough to be able to borrow capital, at a very low cost, to cover the work needed. In addition it would be able to plan across the whole network, and invest in specialist training and upskilling in a way that most councils cannot.

It would have market power to cut procurement costs and have the internal systems to handle what will be an increasingly complex compliance environment. It is smaller communities that would benefit the most from this, as the big cities already have some scale.

There has been a bit of misinformation about the ownership of these proposed entities. To be clear, they will be owned by local authorities. Those councils, along with mana whenua, will have representation on an oversight group, which will set the expectations for the entity. An appointments panel will make appointments to the independent board, based on competency, and the board will govern the entity. Any surpluses will be invested in the network, not distributed to councils.

The government has said there will be legislation to protect these new providers from privatisation. One proposal is that either a referendum or a 75% majority vote in parliament would be needed to do so. One of the reasons I support strong Māori oversight is that this is probably one of the best protections against privatisation of critical strategic assets like these.

The government has said that these large entities will need to engage with and respond to local communities with their specific needs. They will also have to work with local councils so that their water investments align with councils development plans for future population growth.

So will we be better off? As far as jobs go, the government has said that the new providers cannot run everything from head office. They will need to retain staff on the ground and in fact are talking about increasing staff. So the current proposal won’t take skilled people from our community.

As for water bills, the government is looking at an economic regulator along the lines of the Electricity Authority, to make sure that costs and investments are transparent and reasonable. Like everything else, though, water bills will no doubt keep going up. The DIA has estimated that over the next 30 years, average water bills in our district will go up a few hundred dollars with these reforms. Without the reform they estimate almost $5000 over the same period. Those savings probably come partly from big urban areas cross subsidising smaller communities.

Our council is checking over those figures to see if they hold true. The devil, as they say, is in the details. We need to examine these proposals very carefully to make sure that the substance is as good as the sizzle.

Finally, the government has said that no community will be worse off because of the reforms. The water assets will come off council books and go to the new water services provider. Councils will be compensated for the debt they hold for those assets, but not the equity. The claim is that many assets are overvalued when you look at the actual state of repair, and that there is more liability than asset.

The government will also provide around $22.6 million to Whakatāne District to help us shift to a sustainable and low carbon economy and provide the infrastructure needed for housing growth and development. These are critical issues for our community right now.

The council has not yet made any decision on whether to opt in or out of these reforms, and I am personally undecided. We are still working through the details of what is proposed. We also need to provide an opportunity for our communities to have a say. Having said that, it is not clear that we will have a choice. For small communities to get the benefits of scale, the government needs everyone, including the cities, to be part of it.

What is important right now is that we all understand what is actually being proposed and make our assessment based on facts. For more detail on the reform proposals, the Department of Internal Affairs website is a good start.

(Published in the Whakatāne Beacon 13/8/21)

Tagged ,

A Circular Economy for a Better Future

What kind of economy do we want? The words that spring to my mind are things like – abundant, prosperous, inclusive, fair, and sustainable. An economy which is healthy, which all of the people in our district benefit from and which is viable in the long term.

For those things to be true, our economy needs to be circular. A circular economy is about the prosperity of our district now and in the future. It means cycling resources, of all kinds, through as many hands as possible. In this way, we are able to generate the maximum value from them. This builds local wealth, local resilience, and local connection.

In a circular economy, materials such as glass, metals, plastics, textiles etc would get reused, up-cycled, and re-cycled indefinitely. The aim is for production where, as in nature, no ‘waste’ exists because every waste product from one business becomes a feed-stock to another. This goes beyond recycling, to redesigning material flows through the economy.

Money flows should also be circular. This keeps and generates wealth within our own communities by circulating around as many people as possible. Small towns especially suffer from linear financial flows – money comes in on payday and then leaves as everyone heads out of town to do the shopping. Instead of draining money from our communities we need to look at how we can slow the flow, create eddies and dams to capture more value within our communities.

Even when we buy in local shops, the products are often not locally produced, and so the local benefits are limited. It is very likely that as fossil fuel use reduces, from global action on climate change and also declining global oil production, we will have to produce more stuff locally. Supporting local production builds resilience into our local economy.

Circularity applies to people as well. COVID has highlighted NZ’s vulnerability when it comes to overseas workers. The Eastern Bay has, I think, done well in terms of building long term relationships with communities in Vanuatu to support the kiwi fruit industry. This allows skills development and other kinds of exchanges to occur and is not based on the same kind of exploitation we see in some other places. But it also raises the question of how we build more circularity in terms of local people.

The marine school, to be sited at the new boat harbour, is a good example. We have some of the best aluminium boat builders in the world in the Whakatāne district. They have had to bring in skilled workers from overseas because of the lack of locals able to do the job. The new marine school will not only train local people for welding, but for all aspects of boat building and boat maintenance, from design to fit out. The boat harbour itself, coupled with highly skilled local people, will both draw and retain work in this local economy.

Whakatāne Boat Harbour - Artist's impression

As the work around the marine school and boat harbour shows, circularity in our local economy relies on long-term relationships between businesses, and between businesses and institutions. It is impossible to build a business ecosystem without some long-term commitment to shared goals of building collective local prosperity. I believe that most business owners in our sub-region do share that goal, but we lack the mechanisms to easily give effect to them.

This is why institutional commitments to a circular economy are important. During the COVID lockdown and recovery, and also with the Provincial Growth Fund, the Whakatāne District Council was able to attract far more Government money into this area than most councils of our size. Because this put a real strain on local contractors, the council worked with them and with other institutions to schedule work flows to keep them manageable, rather than swinging back and force like a pendulum. Contractors willingly took on temporary staff from other businesses facing a downturn, to help make sure local workers stayed employed. WDC was able to access Kia Kaha funding to keep work flowing, and its commitment to local employment saw 175 unemployed or redeployed people find work. 50 of those are now permanent jobs.

There are many elements of our local economy that are already circular, or at least moving towards it. The contribution of Māori world views, and Māori business, based on values such as whakapapa, kaitiakitanga, mana motuhake and intergenerational thinking will, I think, help move us even faster in that direction. I believe that it is where our community wants, and needs, to go to build a prosperous future where all people enjoy the benefits. Of course this is not something we can do alone. We need to build momentum in our individual businesses, in our business networks and in our local economy as a whole, as well as across the region, our nation, and the planet. When I look around at what is happening globally, I know we are not alone.

Published in the Whakatāne Beacon 30/12/20

Tagged ,

WHAT HAVE WE LEFT

I look at nature

the way that life pulses through it

the murmurations of birds

the running of inanga

and salmon

and herrings

and antelope

and bison

the inconceivable abundance

that powers this living planet

and all of the life upon it

and in it

and around it

and I worry

because we have pillaged it

despoiled it

ripped it apart

like clueless fucking idiots

and what have we left

for everyone else?

the bears

the wolves

the eagles and hawks

the whales and the orcas

all those beautiful

mesmerising

incredible

awesome beings

what have we left them?

or even left our own children?

are we really

that

stupid?