By Waveney Warth
Raglan has plenty to boast about. Photo credit: Raglan Shuttle
My mates in Raglan (Whaingaroa) are totally convinced I should move there. It's the best place in Aotearoa they say, world class surf, stunning scenery... very drinkable coffee, and a ready-made connected community of people who care - although its worth noting that when the surf's up those same locals have quite the feisty side. Last year Rick Thorpe, one of my Raglan zero-waste-community-enterprise brothers, decided that Tim and I needed to do a road trip to visit the town an tell its remarkable sustainability story, 'there's an insane amount going on here, it's mean.' A road trip?? Aren't we just two happy little audiophiles in our Auckland studio? Then another friend who has a mint permaculture farm just out of Whaingaroa invited us to stay and that was that. I imagined we'd cruise down, do two or three interviews and then kick back and enjoy some combo involving local organic food, beer, surf and panoramic views. I don't know if he planned it, but after we were hooked in, Rick emailed me every few days with more projects and more people that we absolutely had to include - 'These guys are world leaders' 'These guys were doing it before it even had a name' 'These guys have mobilised half the town'. Before I knew it we had nine interviewees. Which quickly became two episodes and three days / two nights away.
So Tim and I hit the road and met lots of apparently ordinary people doing some 'hang on what now?!' incredible things. At How to Save the World we only want to share pathways to sustainability that you can achieve. Usually that means focusing on lifestyle choice, buying power and citizen advocacy. What's happening in Whaingaroa is something else entirely, but just as achievable. Its little groups of people moulding their local environment - away from the standard ensemble of energy and food shipped in; waste shipped out; waterways degrading and native species struggling (i.e. your tangible local example of our global climate-changing-extinction-causing tricky situation). The projects we investigated, some twenty years old, others brand new, are actually heaving the town’s entire infrastructure and physical environment toward a regenerative thriving circular economy. What we found out is best listened to straight from the people's mouths who are involved but a couple of themes are worth noting here.
Eva Rickard, change maker, "Don't wait for permission to do something about it."
Photo credit: NZ History
We share stories from:
Raglan Naturally, www.raglannaturally.co.nz.
The community led town plan that was 20 years in the making and recently adopted by the Waikato District Council as the town’s official long term plan.
The plan galvanises efforts to redesign everything from waste water treatment (must be processed through a living wetland); rubbish (must be eliminated or minimised and used to create a circular economy) and even energy (currently exploring local generation opportunities).
All of which are firsts (or first equals in timing or scale) in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Interview with Gabrielle Parson, Raglan Naturally coordinator and Raglan Community Board member.
Xtreme Zero Waste, www.xtremezerowaste.org.nz
The community owned resource recovery centre that prevents 75-80% of Raglan’s “rubbish” (read “resources”) from going to landfill. Only one in seven members of the public come here to drop off waste; everyone else comes here (instead of the warehouse, or Mitre 10) to shop. The centre is the second largest employer in the area, injecting 1.6 million in wages into this small local economy of 5000 people.
Interview with Rick Thorpe Xtreme cofounder and Innovations Manager. To get ideas and support for your town check out Aotearoa’s Zero Waste Network, www.zerowaste.co.nz,
Waveney at Xtreme Zero Waste, Raglan's resource recovery centre. Photo credit: Tim Batt.
Raglan Community Energy
A community enterprise that has Whaingaroa on its way to be Aotearoa’s first energy independent town. The partnership with WEL energy, www.wel.co.nz/sustainability/community-initiatives, plans to generate 4-5 Megawatts of solar energy from a community owned 5 hectare solar farm. The profits from the sale of power will go fund community projects with a social or environmental benefit and enable free or discounted power to those who need it. This is in addition to Raglan Local Energy, www.raglanlocalenergy.co.nz which is already putting solar panels on roof tops in town.
Interview incorporated above... two birds with one stone, Rick is a coordinator of ‘Raglan Local Energy’ To get ideas and support for your town check out Aotearoa’s Community Energy Network, www.communityenergy.org.nz.
Whaingaroa Harbour Care, www.harbourcare.co.nz
In 1995, Whaingaroa Harbour had the worst recreational catch rate of any harbour in NZ taking on average 18 hours just to catch one fish. Two million trees later, the harbour is one of the best in New Zealand and it’s now possible to catch your fish quota within 1 hour! The project has had one of the most successful engagement rates with farmers and fishers in the country. Interview with Fiona Edwards, Whaingaroa Harbour Care Project manager
Kari-oi Maunga ki te Moana, www.karioiproject.co.nz
A community led epic trapping project to provide a safe habitat for grey faced petrels and other New Zealand sea birds tracking toward extinction. People said it couldn’t be done, but this group of 350 volunteers check 2048 traps every two weeks, and are transforming Kari-oi Maunga in a remarkable way. Interview with Kristel van Houte, Kari-oi Maunga ki te Moana Project Manager. If you are inspired to make a difference in your local community, on land or sea, you could start by checking in with your local Forest and Bird group, www.forestandbird.org.nz/branches or learning more about Aotearoa’s predator free movement here: www.pf2050.co.nz/the-predator-free-movement.
Raglan / Whaingaroa nestled between Whaingaroa Harbour and Kari-oi Maunga.
Photo credit: Waikato District Council
Local food resilience
Growing and eating local food is arguably one of the most important things we can do to secure a regenerative future, and Whaingaroa / Raglan boasts an impressive cluster of local projects including a government sponsored project exploring national options for food resilience project; a seed saving project to save locally loved seeds from the area; ‘crop swap’ a public event, held regularly, for anyone to share their homegrown surplus food; and an extraordinary group collecting food waste from each and every Raglan home to create a high grade compost (that can be used to grow more local food!) Interview with Liz Stanway, Whaingaroa Environment Centre committee member and Organics Team Leader at Xtreme Zero Waste.
Raglan locals enjoy Crop Swap, a free exchange of homegrown surplus.
Photo credit: Raglan Chronicle
Hang on wait! Why is growing and eating local food arguably one of the most important things we can do to secure a regenerative future?? Well there are more reasons than you can point a stick at. Here's five.
Marae celebrates joining the Para Kore programme.
Photo credit: Te Ao Māori News
Para Kore , www.parakore.maori.nz
Para Kore means Zero Waste in te reo. It is also a for Maori by Maori programme that came out of Whaingaroa / Raglan in 2009 and now has national impact. It’s goal is to support all marae to be working toward zero waste by 2025. Incredibly 449 marae have joined and over 500 tonnes of waste that would have gone to landfill has been completely avoided. The Para Kore programme works with marae to increase the reuse, recycling and composting of materials thereby helping to reduce the extraction of natural resources and raw materials from Papatūānuku. Interview with Jacqui Forbes, Para Kore cofounder and General Manager.
A household’s role in creating a sustainable region
Our hosts during our Raglan stay were Clare and David Whimmer, a household of adept permaculturalists living 20 mins out of town. They kindly agreed to let us interview them as we were blown away by how they lived and inspired to see a tangible example of people living in and enjoying a thriving, sustainable region... and oh my the food was good.
(From left) Waveney, two lovely wwoofers, David, Clare and Tim all enjoying an off the farm dinner and would-be-award-winning home brew beer. Photo Credit: Matthew Luxon
To all those who took the time to talk with us, and who are giving everything they've got to create better outcomes for tomorrow,
Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.