Ihumātao – in its own terms

The Police Commissioner needs to explain the decision last night to crank up the heat at Ihumātao. The development is on hold, discussions are taking place, the Government is trying to de-escalate. What agenda are the Police pursuing here?

The whole situation needs careful handling by the Crown. This is a site of unique significance, and the issues are not simple. In addition, it highlights a systemic injustice of the treaty settlement process: that stolen land in private hands are out of bounds. That is untenable as a long term position and has potential to unravel at any time.

On the other hand some people are comparing this to the Foreshore and Seabed. I’m a long way from the action but I find that hard to understand. F&SB was the Govt of the day passing legislation to seize potential Māori property rights across the country. Clark’s Govt pre-empted a court case to disadvantage Māori. It was a modern-day raupatu.

Ihumātao, as far as I understand, is about protecting a unique and important site from development. It was stolen a while ago and went into private Pakeha ownership. A previous National Govt ruled that privately owned land could not be part of any treaty settlement. A later National Govt fast-tracked the consent process to use it for housing. Jacinda is trying to figure out a way through the mess.

Yes Ihumātao should be protected. Yes the Crown needs to take responsibility for its role to date. Yes the Govt must grapple with the broader question of how to deal justly with important sites in private ownership (bearing in mind they haven’t hesitated to take Māori land when it served Pakeha interests). But to me this isn’t about trying to make a comparison to a very different situation.

To me the point is to recognise what Ihumātao represents in its own terms: another generation of rangatahi seeking to take up their role as protectors. Another opportunity to build activist networks and connections and grow the movement for positive change. Another significant moment in the work to decolonise ourselves.

It is also part of a broader context. Indigenous people around the world are asserting their mana, and more than that, the vital importance of indigenous values in the world today. Values far more important than money.

Many tangata whenua and tangata tiriti have supported and been inspired by Standing Rock, by Mauna Kea. Many have been angered by the revelations about “uplifts” of Māori children. At the same time we are seeing the world fraying and coming apart around us. Ihumātao is a catalyst, an opportunity to disrupt the status quo and demand something different.

If there ever was a time when we needed to speak up, it is now. If there was ever a time to make a stand for justice, for people and for the earth, it is now. Love and respect to the protectors at Ihumātao, and everywhere.

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RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE IN WHAKATĀNE

This is an amazing moment in history. Young people, sick of seeing decades of denial, procrastination and evasion on climate change from political and business leaders are taking to the streets. School children are striking from school. Youth are organising direct action movements. People are demanding action.

They need to. Local Government New Zealand has drafted a Climate Change Declaration setting out some principles and aspirations for how local government can address the challenges of climate change. It is not radical – it asks councils to promote walking and public transport, improve resource efficiency and healthy homes and support renewable energy and electric vehicles. It recognises that local government needs to work with central government and with their communities.

Some 56 councils have signed but around 24 still refuse to do so. Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie says that the issue is ‘politically charged’  (because politics is anathema for a politician!). Meanwhile the West Coast Regional Council is opposing the Government’s Zero Carbon bill because “the evidence proving anthropogenic climate change must be presented and proven beyond reasonable doubt”. Apparently near unanimous agreement in the international scientific community is not sufficient.

Here in Whakatāne, climate change is already real for us. The flooding in Edgecumbe last year put our vulnerability to rising sea levels and increased storms into sharp focus. We know we can expect more of that. We know that the water table in the Rangitaiki Plains – once a wetland covering some 300km2 – is rising. A number of our people live under escarpments, along the coastline or clustered around our rivers. We have no room for complacency.

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Like much of local government, our council has been developing scattered pieces of work over the years, adjusting our district plan to incorporate climate change related hazards, but it has been piecemeal. There have been some attempts in the past to develop a Sustainability Strategy, but that never really went very far. What the organisation needed was more leadership at a political level, more strategic governance that recognises the real threat that climate change poses for our council and for our community. That leadership is now there.

Our Mayor, Tony Bonne, gets it. He signed the Mayors Declaration as soon as he found out about it. The issues of climate change and of sustainability are now being regularly raised around the council table, and not just by me. There is, I think, a strong acceptance around the table that climate change is real, that it poses a significant threat, and that we need to address it hand in hand with our communities.

In our organisation we are taking real steps. Our new CEO, Steph O’Sullivan, has a strong background understanding of climate change, of resilience and of partnering across communities, businesses and with the Crown. We have developed a high level Climate Change Steering Group with representation from senior leadership and with myself as the political representation. We have a Climate Change Project Team that has representation from the people that will be implementing our strategies. We are developing Climate Change principles based on the LGNZ declaration but drilling down into how they apply to our district, with input from across the organisation. The key thing about those principles is that they will flow through into decision-making across the organisation so that sustainability becomes embedded into decision-making rather than remaining a clip-on.

We have begun the process of bench-marking our own emissions so that we can improve and change, by signing up to the CEMARS programme. We have also done an energy audit to see where our bulk energy use is and how we can reduce it. That has given us a number of potential places where we can save money and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The next step is a more detailed investigation to see which of those possibilities might work in practice. This includes exploring the potential for adding solar generation to our buildings, which has highlighted that we need to address our approach to new public buildings and incorporate basic sustainable building design principles – something we have so far failed to do.

Council needs to address our own emissions, our own robustness (ability to withstand shocks), and our own resilience (ability to spring back from shocks). This is about showing leadership. Perhaps even more importantly, though, we need to be leading a deep discussion in our communities. Neither council nor government will ‘fix’ climate change. We can help or hinder but the most significant decisions will be made elsewhere. In this district, for example, the decisions around land use are critical both in terms of our emissions as a district and in terms of how we adapt to climate change. Council has an important role in making sure that people have good information when they make their own decisions about their homes, their businesses, their farms, their marae. We need community discussions that are non-judgemental, open and honest, and resourced with reliable information.

That process has begun, even though it has a long way to go. Whakatāne Ki Mua is the biggest community engagement that council has ever done, establishing a foundation for what the community wants for our communities. The GreenPrint forums have been exploring sustainability, resilience and regenerative design for our district and that has led to two community initiatives – Waste Zero and the Food Sovereignty network. A number of cool projects are being showcased during this months Sustainable Backyards which, for Whakatāne, is based out of Wharaurangi. In making that site available to Envirohub for the month, council has also committed to engaging our community around climate change, as the first step towards that deep discussion.

The horizon on climate change doesn’t stop in 2080 or 2100. The world will keep warming, oceans will keep rising, storms will keep getting stronger regardless of what we do. However we can influence how much worse it will get, for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Imagine what our own great grandparents would say to us if we refuse to act now, when we know.

This isn’t about blame or judgement, it is about coming together to talk about how we are going to respond, collectively and individually, to this challenge. Most importantly it is about recognising climate change as an opportunity. Not for a few people to enrich themselves, but to genuinely change how we do things. We can create a future that is better than our past and present. By becoming genuinely sustainable and resilient, by building stronger community networks and looking out for each other, we can solve not just climate change but many of our other issues as well. Climate is just a symptom of a deeper problem. We have become disconnected from the rest of life and we have become disconnected from each other. The results are not just ecological but social, economic and cultural. Redesigning our way of life to put people and planet at the centre is worth doing regardless of climate change. Climate change is just the driver.

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My thoughts on 1080

I’m not pro-1080.
I don’t support banning it either.
I like to think I have a balanced approach. I think that ground control of invasive species like possums, rats and stoats is better and should be used where feasible. I also understand that it is not currently feasible in many places. This may be because of difficult access, dangerous terrain, or lack of people able and willing to do the trapping. Because those species are so destructive of our native ecosystems, I support the use of 1080 drops where ground control is not an option – at least until something better comes along.
But I am getting turned off by the behaviour of some people in the anti-1080 camp (and I say that because I don’t really see it coming much from the other side). The ones who don’t seem to care whether they are telling the truth. The ones who try to hijack every discussion and make it about 1080. Most of all, the ones getting viciously personal about anyone who disagrees with them. I know 1080 advocates who have spent their entire lives protecting native ecosystems and it makes me angry to see them being accused of hidden agendas, even more so when it is by keyboard warriors who barely step out of the house.
Not all anti-1080 people act like this. I’d be surprised if many of them didn’t feel the same way. I know plenty of people on both sides of the debate and the reality is most of them are good people who genuinely care about our land. They just disagree on this issue. That’s a good thing – it keeps us thinking. I just wish there was as much energy and focus for the real threat to our environment– intensive pastoral farming.
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Ceremonies with Life

I spent most of today at Te Kohinga Mārama marae, Waikato Uni, watching people graduate. I was there to see my brother-in-law, Enoka Murphy, receive his PhD and was really proud to stand there as part of his whānau while his Ngāti Manawa kin repped their iwi.

My experience of graduation ceremonies is limited to that marae and to US films. I couldn’t help but compare the lifeless and dull academic ceremonies depicted in the movies – perhaps briefly enlivened by someone boldly mounting the stage with bare feet or some other rebellious act of individuality – with what I experienced on the marae.

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Some graduates climbed the stage to the accompaniment of a ferocious haka performed by rows of proud whānau and friends eager to celebrate the great achievement of completing a university degree. Others had a beautiful waiata, sung by a proud parent or nanny. A group of Pasifikans occupied the entire ātea, dancing to wooden drums while lei upon lei was piled around the graduate’s neck until they looked like big bird on mescaline. A huge ope of proud Ngāti Porou busted out ‘Ko wai te tekoteko’, one of my favourite waiata of all time. Some Africans (Nigerians? I wasn’t sure) clapped and sang.

Every contribution, from the enveloping waves of sound that rose from a mass of singers, to the gentle trickle of a single voice, was appreciated and applauded. No one seemed to be in too much of a hurry and so everyone had the time to do what they needed to mark out their own proud story of whānau success. The audience loved to see the different iwi represent, but there was special appreciation for the unexpected – whether a cultural offering from another country or the string sextet that offered up a few bars of music to celebrate a colleague.

One of the most poignant contributions was from a mum who stated apologetically that she couldn’t kōrero Māori or offer a waiata but she wanted to say how proud she was of her daughter, the first one in their whānau to get a university qualification. The daughter climbed the stage with her grandmother to receive her degree.

The whole thing was so beautiful, so full of life, so expressive and overflowing with emotion. So Māori. I wondered if the parallel ceremony at the Events Centre a few days before had the same feeling, but I suspect not. One of the things I really love about Aotearoa, about Māori, and about Polynesian culture is the way people do ceremony. It is powerful, fulfilling – whether talking about tangihanga / funerary rites, the pōwhiri / ceremonies of welcome or celebrating success such as a university graduation. For Pākeha who engage with the Māori world, it is in my opinion one of the most important things to learn – the importance of tikanga, of doing things right.

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Permaculture for a World in Transition

The term ‘permaculture’ was first coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and is a contraction of ‘permanent culture’. The basic qualification is the Permculture Design Certificate. Some of the practises and ideas that were once radical or groundbreaking have become widespread, both in food production (e.g. mulching gardens for soil conditioning and water retention) and increasingly in the sustainable business literature (many of the principles in The Blue Economy and in Natural Capitalism reflect permaculture thinking). Even so, permaculture as a whole-systems design approach still has much to offer to a world in transition.

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It is increasingly obvious that humans are at a crisis point. We have created a civilisation that is in fundamental conflict with the natural world. Our great environmental challenges, including climate change, water degradation, soil loss and mass extinction of species are all symptoms of this. The global economy, with its imperative for endless cumulative growth, is reaching the ecological boundaries of our planet. If we want to have a future where humans can thrive, we need to transform. We need to redesign our way of life to become deeply sustainable, creatively resilient and intrinsically regenerative.

Sustainability, Resilience and Regeneration
Being sustainable simply means being able to keep going indefinitely. Sustainability practises often focus on resource efficiency and the substitution of harmful materials, however the Jevons Paradox shows that highly efficient use of resources per unit can lead to increased net resource use. We must consciously address overall levels of consumption.
We need to also focus on resilience – the ability to recover from disruption and to bounce back – given an increasingly uncertain world. Resilience often comes from strategic redundancy, or having ‘fat’ in the system and is often in tension with strategies to make things stronger and more robust.

Regeneration recognises that sustainably managing a degraded environment is not enough. We have slashed so many strands of the web of life that we need to actively stitch it back together by enhancing ecological integrity wherever we can.

The basic premise of permaculture is that systems already exist which are sustainable, resilient and regenerative. These are natural systems. The more we can understand the processes by which natural systems unfold and develop and the more we can grasp the principles and characteristics of ecology, the more harmonious and life-sustaining our own systems can become.

Ethical principles
Permaculture begins with three ethical underpinnings: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. Earth Care recognises that we are part of the natural world and that in the most literal way our lives and our well-being derive from it. All of our systems must make provision for life systems to continue and multiply at all levels.
People Care is about creating systems that enhance our humanity. People are complex multi dimensional beings with an innate drive to create, to explore and to express ourselves. We are also social beings so healthy relationships with each other, with our kin, our community, our culture are all vital to our well-being.

Fair share, sometimes expressed as ‘share the surplus’ is an ethic of generosity. This is in contrast to the ethic of selfishness and accumulation which is at the heart of neoliberalism. Excessive accumulation and personal consumption leads to insecurity and instability and only by sharing resources more justly can we become genuinely sustainable. By being modest with our own consumption we can set resources aside to support the broader transformation needed.

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Design principles
Out of the permaculture ethics comes a series of design principles. They arise from the contemplation of nature, observation of indigenous and traditional practises and from science – in particular the sciences of ecology and of physics. There is no single definitive list of them, but David Holmgren’s 12 Design Principles are perhaps the best known and most cohesive articulation.
However, permaculture is not just about memorising a formula. It is more about understanding the underlying patterns that exist in nature and applying them to the specific circumstances. When we say design by nature, it is not a metaphor, but an acknowledgement that in any situation a set of self-organising forces already exist that we need to recognise and integrate with our own intent.

Permaculture, then, begins with thoughtful observation and interaction. When developing a property, permaculturists are encouraged to spend a year on their land before doing anything major. This allows time to observe the seasonal changes and to see the pre-existing patterns in the ecosystem. Within a tighter time-frame, careful observation can still indicate where the energy and resource stocks and flows are, the water, sun, wind, nutrients, wildlife and people. We can observe the niches and microclimates, the natural pathways of people and animals and where the biggest opportunities are.

Essentially the same process takes place when applying permaculture design to a social or economic project. We attempt to draw out the latent potential of a ‘site’ rather than impose an artificial concept developed in isolation from the real situation.

Food Forests – an illustration
Food forests are not a universal solution, but they do offer a good illustration of how permaculture design principles can come together. Rather than a monoculture orchard with rows and rows of a single variety of a single species with bare poisoned earth between them, a food forest is a polyculture that attempts to mimic a natural forest, but one that is based around human need.

A food forest will be diverse in species, which builds resilience to disease and provides a wider range of yields. It will include some leguminous trees, perhaps grouped with different species of fruit trees, to fix nitrogen and act as an insect break. A forest is layered horizontally and temporally so it might have: canopy trees for fruits, nuts and timber; low trees for fruit and coppicing; shrubs for berries and weaving materials; herbaceous bushes for teas, dyes, medicines, mulching; rooting plants for food and to cultivate the soil; soil covers such as fungi, strawberries, culinary herbs; and climbers that penetrate all the layers. Plants will fruit at different times to assure a year-round supply of food and animals may be part of the system, to control insects and plants, and to manure the ground. The ground itself may be ploughed or contoured into swales to trap water and nutrients using a keyline approach.

Perhaps more than anything, permaculture is about increasing the beneficial relationships between things. A permaculture maxim is that every element should fulfil multiple functions, and every function should be supported by multiple elements. In a food forest, for example, a herbaceous plant might be used as a tea or aromatic, to attract beneficial (predatory) insects, to attract pollinators, to mine minerals from sub-soils, and/or to release gases to help ripening.

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The self-sustaining ecosystem can be a metaphor for a horticultural food production system, grasslands agriculture, a whole economy, a series of industrial processes, a community organisation or a single business . All of the many characteristics of a healthy ecosystem: diversity, complex associations, layering, making use of locally available and abundant resources, developing feedback loops, building energy stores, can be usefully applied to foster sustainability, resilience and regenerativity in a range of settings. Aotearoa New Zealand has one of the oldest national permaculture organisations in the world and therefore many experienced practitioners who can advance the discussion and highlight the many opportunities.

Published on the Pure Advantage website 13/04/2018

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Which way Winston, and what’s in it for the Greens?

Some quick thoughts off the back of Winston Peters’ comment to a journalist today that the idea of a Labour Green government is a “gross misrepresentation of the NZ political situation”.

What did he mean? Frankly, who knows? Even on the rare occasion that Winston says something in plain language, he still never actually said it according to him. Even when it is published on the New Zealand First website. I have no interest in trying to decipher his intentions from such sparse hints. It is more interesting is to reflect on the bigger picture of the coalition negotiations.

Winston can either go with Labour Greens or with National. Going with National is a risky line to take – and if he does he will be wanting to push the blame onto the Greens as much as possible for being ‘unreasonable’. Even so, NZF was badly damaged after going into coalition with National in 1996 after a campaign indicating that they were going to change the government. It is likely they will be damaged again if he does so now. His election slogan was “Had Enough’. Unless he was talking about himself (and most of us have), this implies an intention to support a Labour-led Government.

In any case, by propping up a last term National Government he will be handing a poisoned chalice to whoever he plans to anoint as successor. Whoever it is will have a hard enough time regardless. Of the two most likely contenders, Shane Jones cannot hide his supreme contempt for anyone who isn’t Shane Jones and is unlikely to have a lasting appeal to voters. I rate Ron Mark as a much better choice, but he doesn’t have anything like the charisma of his boss. If NZF goes with National and then Winston retires, I doubt the party would recover.

On the other hand, if he goes with Labour and elbows the Greens into the position of a support party outside of government, the Greens might end up with more leverage than they have now. The government would still rely on them to pass all its legislation, unless it can get support from National, but the Greens would not be bound by rules of cabinet responsibility. Labour could guarantee to support NZF legislative initiatives but not to pass them. Or it’s own for that matter, unless it ties the Greens into a closer arrangement than confidence and supply.

If the Greens were in a C&S arrangement with the government reliant on them for votes, they would have to use such power carefully and wisely. To be seen to be hamstringing the government would likely provoke a backlash. But what they could do is use the opportunity to strategically carve out a broader support base, by being seen to speak and exercise power on behalf of some new constituencies – ones that disrupt the left / right model of politics that they are currently trapped in.

Finally, it is a shame to see that the small parties are unable to talk together during coalition negotiations (and by all accounts it is Winston that refuses to entertain the possibility). NZF and Greens have plenty in common and no doubt by working strategically together they could achieve far bigger gains for both of them. Divide and rule is an old tactic but I don’t understand why anyone would play that trick on themselves.

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