marine mammals ocean

Captaining Direct Action



We need to capture the moment that we find them hunting or killing whales because that’s what speaks to people’s imaginations. If they can actually see what’s happening, then people get upset and hopefully they will be upset enough to stand up with us and fight the governments on this.

Sustainable Lens caught up with Capt Wyanda Lublink on a resupply stop as part of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Nemesis patrol of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.


Sam: Welcome to Sustainable Lens, Resilience on radio, a weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher and me, Samuel Mann. Each week we talk to someone making a positive difference. We try to find out what motivates them. What it means to see the world through a sustainable perspective. Tonight’s sustainable lens is that of Captain Wyanda Lublink and I’m on the motor yacht…


Wyanda: Motor vessel


Sam: Motor vessel, Steve Irwin, the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin. Thank you very much for joining me. Thanks for letting me on the ship.


Wyanda: No problem, you’re very welcome.


Sam: Let’s start with some questions about you then. Where did you grow up?


Wyanda: I grew up in the Netherlands, many, many years ago. All my family lives still in the Netherlands. I was the only one that actually moved to Australia 10 years ago.


Sam: What did you want to be when you grew up?


Wyanda: When I grew up, I had no idea what I wanted to be. My parents were butchers, so I definitely did not want to be a butcher. My dad was also into marketing, and at that stage, my sister went to a marketing course, so I decided to do the same. Because you’re young, you have no clue what the world is about, so you just follow in your dad’s footsteps, basically. That’s what I did. I went to study international marketing management.


Sam: Did you enjoy it?


Wyanda: Well, the study itself had a few nice aspects, but most of all, I really enjoyed being a student. A student’s life is different from the real world out there. I did enjoy the four years of university. I didn’t so much like the studying, but that comes with it.


Sam: Did you use that marketing?


Wyanda: I did use it for a little while. Because I studied international marketing, during your university years they want you to go abroad for at least half a year. We had to choose a study abroad, which mine brought me to Pontypool in Wales in the United Kingdom where I did half a year of … I’m not over fond of being a student. I came back to the Netherlands to continue studying. Third year we have to do a practical training we call it. I had an opportunity to do it in Poland which was special in those years because we’re talking about 93, I think. It was a long time ago. I really enjoyed that. I did a marketing research in Poland.


Then, in my last year in university, when you do your final project, I decided to do it internationally as well. Which was just over the border, I went to Germany. I did it there, another marketing research. Because I really enjoyed the travelling, as soon as I finished my university, I didn’t even wait for graduation day, I was on a plane to the States. I worked in a children’s camp for a while in the kitchen, summer camp for children. It’s a very popular thing in the States. I did that for I think it was for 10 weeks. Then, I travelled the United States, which I absolutely loved.


Sam: Somehow you got from there to the Navy.


Wyanda: I did. There was a few years in between. When I came back from America, I really liked travelling so I got the travel bug. I went back to the Netherlands because my money ran out. I actually worked in the field of marketing for a little while, for a year. I already knew I wanted to go see Australia and New Zealand and Indonesia. I worked for a year. I had three jobs, got as much money as I could, went on a plane to Australia for a year, including a few months here in New Zealand. Really enjoyed what I did in Australia.


I wasn’t a scuba diver before, but when I backpacked around Australia, I did a diving course. Absolutely fell in love with the underwater world. I went to Australia, I visited New Zealand for three months. Went back to Australia, started working dive school, worked my way up to dive master. Over-stayed my visa, got an extension, luckily, for the time that I spent in New Zealand, I could extend my time in Australia. Then, it was time to go back.


I was supposed to be a month in Indonesia as well, but I only had enough money for a week. I did change my flight back to the Netherlands. I knew already then, that my heart was in Australia, and I really wanted to go back. When I went back to the Netherlands, I looked into emigrating to Australia, but Australia has got a very strict point system, and I did not have enough points because I didn’t have any work experience after I graduated because I only travelled. I said to myself, “Okay, I’ll get my work experience and then I’ll try again.”


In the meantime, I fell in love with a guy in Holland and he was in the Dutch Navy. I really needed a job that didn’t put me behind a desk with all my travelling experiences. I needed a job that I could travel. He just came back from a deployment in South America, in the Caribbean and told me all about that. I thought, “Oh wow, that really sounds amazing. That’s what I want to do.” I applied for the Royal Dutch Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the Army. Eventually, I chose a job in the Navy, and that’s how I joined the Navy, the Dutch Navy.


Sam: What did you do in the Navy?


Wyanda: I was a little bit older than the average person. A lot of the Navy officers, they join when they’re 17 or 18 and they still go through the five years of academy. I was already 27, and I already had a university degree, so they put me in a class where they needed to train mine warfare officers, so I could go straight for the rank of officer. They really needed people on the mine hunters. For me, it didn’t really matter. I just wanted to do something good for our country, but most of all, I wanted to lead an adventurous life. I did that, nine months at the Academy and a year of probation on a ship, which was a mine hunter. That’s what I did.


You start as a watch keeping officer on the mine hunter and you look for mines. Which is in these waters, especially Australia and New Zealand, there’s not so many around. If you look at Europe, the North Sea, the Baltic Ocean, they’re still full of mines from the first and second world wars. We were actually doing quite a good job by finding these mines and blowing them up. Which thinking back, I did destroy a lot of wild life by blowing up mines. Because you would find a mine, and it’s really hard to see if it’s from the first or second world war.


It’s really hard to see if it’s a mine or a rock because it’s overgrown with under water life and fish are swimming and starfish and lobster. Then, if you know for sure it’s a mine, you need to blow it up because otherwise accidents might happen. I did destroy a lot of wild life. Yeah, I kept doing that for four years, the mine warfare department, or six years, I think it was. Yeah six years. I had a contract for six years. I extended my contract for another year in the Navy. Then I wanted to extend it more because I didn’t know what to do after the Navy.


Sam: You were having a good time.


Wyanda: I was having a good time, again. Then I became a full commissioned officer, I went on to do frigates. In the meantime, my relationship with the Navy guy broke. We split up because it’s really hard. I was away a lot. He was away a lot. To maintain the relationship is very difficult, so we decided to split up. Then, the whole urge of me wanted to go back to Australia. I wanted to emigrate to Australia. I came back.


I started looking into jobs available in the Australian Navy, because I meet an Australian officer who was on exchange with the British Navy and we did a deployment with them. He said, “Your skills being a mine warfare officer in the Australia Navy, in the Dutch Navy, is what we’re looking for in the Australian Navy.” Therefore I started a whole application with the Australian government to join the Australian Navy. It was what they were looking for. It took me two and a half years, but they did recruit me in the Australia Navy. I quit the Dutch Navy and joined the Australian Navy.


Sam: Moved to Australia?


Wyanda: Moved to Australia.


Sam: How long did you last in the Australian Navy?


Wyanda: I did my initial time, which was two years. Then, I left. I wanted to travel, because Australia is so beautiful and my idea was to travel from Sydney to Broome, because somehow I had it in my head that I wanted to live in Broome, I don’t know why. I put everything in storage, packed my car, left Sydney, went along the coast, I drove from Sydney to Melbourne. Got to Melbourne, went north of Melbourne, found a little place that was called Kangaloola Wildlife Shelter. Got started talking to the owner, she was a wildlife carer and she obviously cares for wildlife. She rescues a lot of Australian native wildlife. Anything Australian native, apart from snakes, because she wasn’t allowed to handle snakes. I got really inspired by her so I wanted to volunteer there for a week because she does take volunteers.


After a week, I said, “Can I stay a little bit longer?” I wanted to stay longer and longer and longer. I ended up staying for three years, living in the bush, very sustainable, I would say, because we just depended on rain water. We had no electricity. We had a generator going for when it gets dark to have our lights and some kind of electricity. All we lived for was the animals we rescued. We did rehab, and if possible, we let them go. If they wouldn’t be able to go back into the wild, they had to be put down most of the time. Absolutely loved it.


Sam: Sounds very pleasant but not at sea.


Wyanda: It was definitely not at sea. After three years living in the bush, which was by far until I got to Sea Shepherd the best job I ever had. I was a volunteer, it cost me more money than I would be making. I wasn’t making anything, but it didn’t cost me anything either. Because the wildlife shelter is I didn’t have bill. I didn’t have my house, I just had my car. We used the caravans, the whole wildlife shelter just consisted of caravans. Just building more yards for the animals. It cost me vet bills, basically. Because wildlife sanctuaries in Australia I don’t know how it is in New Zealand, but they don’t get money from the government whatsoever. We need to support everything we did financially. We did it ourselves.


After three years, I thought, “I love what I do, but it’s heartbreaking if you’re passionate about animals. Because so many animals needed to be put down.” You get in contact with so many people that don’t care about animals. It was getting really difficult, and I really missed the ocean. After three years, I decided it was time to move on, packed my car. After I left the Australian Navy, I got my master five skipper’s ticket in Australia.


I started driving up the coast to Queensland, because if you like boats, and in the meantime, I was also a diving instructor. The best place to find a job is Queensland in Australia along the great barrier reef. I did that, and I ended up on a small island called Magnetic Island.  Visited for four days, got a job offer on a really beautiful sailing yacht, a schooner, doing tourist trips. Took that, ended up staying there. Ended up doing the job for a year. Although, it was absolutely stunning and the job was great, you took tourists out in this really nice sailing boat and snorkelling. They would go snorkelling. I would have one deck hand help me with everything. The weather’s always nice, it’s just south of Cairns.


After working at the wildlife shelter for three years, I thought I don’t do anything that helps the world. I make people happy that can go on the trip. Okay, I like what I’m doing, but I don’t do anything sustainable or I don’t help anyone in need. Even if I would not do my job as a skipper, surely they could get somebody else to skipper the yacht. I’m not saving anything. I looked into how can I use my skills as a quite experienced person at sea and my love for animals and rescuing animals, how can I combine them?


I visited my parents back in the Netherlands, and they like to watch Whale Wars. Most people like Whale wars. I was looking at it. I knew it existed. I never really thought about it, Sea Shepherd. My mom made a comment, “I can see you do that.” I thought, “You know what, I think she’s right.” I looked online and found the application form, filled it out. This was in the beginning of 2013. I thought, “They’re never going to ask me.” They sometimes have famous people on the ships that go to Antarctica. I thought, “It’s going to be plenty of people that they want.” I applied in March, in July I was on the way to South Africa to join my first ship, the Sea Shepherd. That’s how it happened.


Sam: Was there something about Sea Shepherd that attracted you?


Wyanda: I think it’s the fact Sea Shepherd is all about saving marine life. I mean it’s four years later now. Now, I’m a captain of a Sea Shepherd. I’ve learned so much about the organisation that I did not know then. The fact that what you see on TV, I was an ex-Navy officer, and I had so much in the Navy. I know, for myself, how much I like that part of it, and they’re saving wildlife. This is exactly what I want.


Everybody when they look at Whale Wars, they can see the fight with the Japanese whaling fleet and the collisions that happen. It is exciting. Although it’s not always what a whole Southern Ocean campaign is about, but it’s part of it. I thought I need that kind of … I enjoy that kind of action. I just love the fact that they’re saving wildlife that nobody else cares about.


Sam: You find yourself on a ship in South Africa, but heading for Antarctica.


Wyanda: No, they were on a secret mission. They were preparing for it then, the secret mission. It’s a smaller ship, it’s called the Jairo Mora Sandoval. It was named after a Costa Rican activist, conservationist who protected the turtles in Costa Rica. A very young guy, Jairo Mora Sandoval. He got killed by the poachers. He got shot trying to save the turtles.


We named the ship after him, in honour of him. The ship was in Richards Bay, South Africa near Durban. They were doing it up because it had been sitting on the slip for two years. They were doing it up and they prepared a mission to Liberia. I was going to be first officer, with only five crew. Because it’s a small ship. I was going to be first officer on that campaign to Liberia. A lot of things happened.


We were supposed to leave five days after my arrival in South Africa. Six weeks later, I still find myself sitting on the ship in South Africa, being a deckie. Which there is nothing wrong with being a deckie, but it’s not really how I imagined it. Because I need to be out at sea and not doing rust repairs or something like that. I went to Mozambique to do some diving. I said, “Let me know when you’re ready for the trip and I’ll come back.” Then, Peter Hammersted called me and  – Peter Hammersted was our recruiting officer then. He’s one of our most famous Sea Shepherd captains. He said, “Would you like to go to Antarctica instead to do a Southern Ocean  campaign?” I said, “Oh yeah, I’ll do that.” Two months later, I joined the Sam Simon in Melbourne.


Sam: When you joined the organisation, is there an induction process about what their philosophy is and so on?


Wyanda: No, not so much. I think everybody that wants to join Sea Shepherd as a volunteer, I think, in general, they do know what we are about. What we stand for, what our philosophies are, what we want. I think 99% of the people do realise, especially going to the Southern Ocean campaign that as soon as we leave Melbourne going to Antarctica, you do actually risk your life going to the Southern Ocean  because it’s definitely not an easy campaign.


Another thing is anybody joining the ship that has no idea what we’re doing, the crew that comes on the Southern Ocean campaign is chosen to go on that campaign. It’s not just a deckie that joins, a deckhand that joins a week before a campaign to the Southern Ocean and can stay. The Steve Irwin did one more campaign in Australia. For the rest of the years, she’s been preparing for Southern Ocean campaigns.


A lot of the deck hands, the galley team, the engineers, they have to work at least three months on the ship while in Melbourne, alongside. We get a whole bunch of volunteers through from those volunteers that come through, we need a recruiting officer together with the ship’s manager and heads of departments. They choose the crew members that they think will fit the most and will do their best and give it their all. They’re the ones chosen to go to Antarctica.


Obviously, being a bridge officer or an engineer, we don’t have as much choice as for deck hands or cooks. We need to get the right team because once we’ve let go of the lines in Melbourne, it takes two or three weeks to go to the Southern Ocean. You can’t just say, “You’re a rotten apple. We don’t want you. You don’t do your job very well. You can swim home now.” It just doesn’t work. You need to work together three to four months.


Sam: Because no matter what you’re doing with this ship, you’re running it as a proper ship. You’re properly registered and all of those sorts of things. People have to be appropriately qualified.


Wyanda: Yes and no. In the past…we are a private ship. We’re not commercially run. Officially, we don’t need any captain’s papers or chief engineers or bosons or … because we are private. If you run commercially, you need to have your papers. You need to have a proper skipper’s licence to run a ship this size. Because we are becoming such a big movement now, it’s not just Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Australia anymore, that’s the American part. We have chapters in so many countries in the world now.


We’re so big. The Sea Shepherd exists 40 years this year. We’ve gone really big. We’ve become really well known, so we have a lot more volunteers coming in and applying. We have a lot more people applying that have actual papers so we get more choice in choosing people that have the experience. Which is absolutely great. We don’t necessarily need people with the papers. What we want most is passion, which is way more important than paperwork.


Sam: Just in case anybody doesn’t know, you can give us Sea Shepherd 101. Who is Sea Shepherd?


Wyanda: Sea Shepherd was originally founded by Paul Watson in 1977. For people that don’t know, Paul Watson, he was co-founder of Greenpeace in 1971. They started Greenpeace because they really wanted to do something. They really wanted to make changes. One of the first, most important campaigns was against the seal slaughter in eastern Canada. Eastern Canada, people go out on the ice when the pups are born and they bash them with base ball bats, just for the fur. It’s absolutely horrible. That’s what one of the first campaigs was.


Paul Watson’s idea was not quite the same as the rest of the founders of Greenpeace. After awhile, he decided the way Greenpeace was taking, it was not what he anticipated. He said goodbye to Greenpeace and he started Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1997. He bought a ship and he really wanted the direct action part, it’s very important. He wanted to do that and Greenpeace was not really all about that. We still fight for the same.


They don’t have the direct action as much as we do. He bought a ship and he actually went after illegal fishermen and poachers. He became quite well known. For some people, they might say, he did not become known for the right reasons because he did sink vessels. He never killed anyone. He never hurt anyone. He took the law in his own hands, so to speak. There’s all these laws out there about illegal fishing and not killing whales in the Southern Ocean whales sanctuary, but nobody enforces these laws. He did that. He became well known. He always had this passion about whales.


Once he started going down to the Southern Oceans to protect the whales, his first campaign was in 2002, and the second campaign was in 2005, which were basically the foundations for how we could run the campaigns now. He became well known in Whale Wars and Animal Planet picked up on it and started making this reality show. Once it came on TV, Whale Wars, this is where it all went. It all became really big.


Sam: These treks in the Southern Ocean are to cover the Japanese whaling programme?


Wyanda: Yes. What a Japanese whaling fleet is doing is … Because everything below 60 degrees south in the Southern Ocean is called the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. It was established by the international whaling commission and all the whales are protected. It doesn’t matter what species. If we’re talking, minke whales or humpback whales or fin whales, pilot whales. Actually, pilot whales are dolphins. Nobody is allowed to kill anything, according to the international whaling commission. We also have the Antarctic Treaty, which also says all the species are protected.


The only reason organisations are allowed to kill is for scientific research. This is where the Japanese saw money. They were commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean before the moratorium of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean. Of course it’s big money for Japan. Japan is the only country that keeps whaling in the Southern Ocean. They thought, “If we can do it for scientific reasons, then we just come up with a scientific research programme.” They came up with JARPNI and II, which is a scientific research programme. They had a self-allocated quota of 1,035 whales that they needed every season for scientific research. The majority, 935 Minke whales, 50 humpback whales, but also 50 fin whales and fin whales have been endangered for quite a while. That’s 1035 whales every single season.


They told themselves they’re allowed to kill for scientific research. Sea Shepherd has been following them for quite a few years now. They realised never any proper results were being published. Where was all this research for? What were they doing with it? 1035 whales a year. It’s massive. It turns out that scientific research was just a whole lot of bullshit actually, to cover up commercial whaling. Because they can’t do any commercial whaling, that is illegal.


For a few years, Sea Shepherd was able to locate the Japanese whaling fleet. They would catch them in the act and when they were actually killing whales, so we know what kind of system they have. They kill a whale with one of their harpoon ships. They shoot off this harpoon. It takes the whale 20 or 30 minutes to bleed out and die, which is absolutely horrible. For them, it doesn’t matter if it’s the male or the female. If it’s the female, they often have the young so the young will hang around as well, so they have that one too.


They have it done alongside the harpoon ship. From the harpoon ship, it needs to go onto the big factory ship. It’s called Nisshin Maru and it’s a massive big ship. We call it the slaughterhouse because they then take the dead whale onboard. They take the dead whale onboard and it goes onto the deck. It’s like a slipway on the back of the Nisshin Maru, and once they have it onboard, they clean out the guts and everything. They put big hoses in and all the blood and everything gets washed out. They start cutting it up. We have proof, we have recorded everything. They start cutting it up, all the guts and everything goes back in the ocean. They cut it up in nice pieces. It goes down below in the freezer hold. We’ve never seen any scientific research being done on them.


Sam: Despite their ship’s got a big sign on it that says “research”.


Wyanda: It did, not this year.


Sam: It doesn’t?


Wyanda: It’s gone. It’s gone. It does still say that on the harpoon ship, but the Nisshin Maru does not have it. I think they finally painted it over.


Sam: Then all the meat goes down below in the freezer hold. Obviously, we can’t see inside the ship, but then, it comes back to Japan at the end of the season and it goes into storage and it’s being sold in the market. They want have the kids to take it to school. We’re talking about highly contaminated meat as well. There’s so many mercury levels and other not so good stuff in the ocean.


Wyanda: What is your job in going down there?


Sam: What we’re trying to do, apart from informing the world what is happening, because media is a very big part of a campaign like this. What we try to do from the start we want to locate the Japanese whaling fleet. First of all, we would like to stop the killing. They have the Nisshin Maru, which is the factory ship or the slaughterhouse. They have three harpoon vessels. Those three harpoon vessels are very manoeuvrable, very quick ships. They do 22, 24 knots, and they come in very well at high speed.


All the ships that Sea Shepherd have, that we had to buy with donated money, because we don’t get anything from the government, they are always a little bit slower and not always highly manoeuvrable. They don’t turn very quickly. What we try to do is get in between the harpoon ships and the whales if necessary. We will use our ship, I will use the Steve Irwin for it. Or I will have the small boats in the water. Because they are high speed and they’re very manoeuvrable. The guys in the small boats know it can be very dangerous.


In the past, the Japanese running fleet would stop hunting when we arrived. Over the years, because we frustrated them so much, they did not manage to get the quota anymore. They were losing a lot of money. They actually started whaling right in front of us. Once they actually shot off a harpoon right over the heads of the guys in the small boats. It could have easily killed them.


If we do not manage to stop the actual killing, then we want to stop the off-loading of the whale onto the slipway of the Nisshin Maru. When we leave Melbourne for campaign, we always say, the captains say to each other, “We’ll see you on the slipway of the Nisshin Maru.” Because that’s our goal. That’s where we want to be. If we can stop the transfer of the whale onto the factory ship, then we can stop the killing. Because the rule of the whaling fleet is that the whale needs to be offloaded in four to six hours.


The only reason a whale needs to be offloaded in between four and six hours is otherwise the meat’s off, the animal’s been dead for too long. In scientific research it should not really matter that much. If we can block that transfer, if they cannot transfer whale off to the Nisshin Maru, they can’t kill any new ones. That’s always a very big one to try and stop the transfer.


Wyanda: How do you manage that risk? Are there rules?


Sam: Being a ship at sea, there’s always rules that you need to follow. At least Sea Shepherd can say, we’ve never, ever, in all our campaigns, not just the Southern Ocean campaigns, we’ve never hurt anyone who we fight against. We can’t always say that from our enemies, so to speak. There is a very big risk involved. Obviously, you don’t become a captain on a Southern Ocean campaign overnight. You don’t go down to the Southern Ocean as a captain on a ship you’ve never been before, without knowing what Sea Shepherd stands for and what we do. I started in 2013, and I did become a captain within a year.


This is my first Southern Ocean campaign, as a captain. I’ve done two Southern Ocean campaigns before. One was an anti-whaling campaign. Obviously, we do talk about what we can do and what we can’t do before we leave as captains. The main thing is we have one thing, we have one goal and that is protect the whales. The crew knows that, the crew has a choice. They’re volunteers. They have a choice. They can be on the ship or they cannot be on the ship.


Obviously, although priority number one for me is to stop the whales from being killed. My second or third is I protect the crew as much as I can. I want to take them all back to port safely. Of course, I don’t want to sink the ship or damage the ship. My most important thing is saving the whales or any marine life I’m protecting. Whatever kind of campaign I’m on. Then the life of the crew. They know that. Everybody knows that, because otherwise, they wouldn’t be here. They’re also passionate.


We turn off the heating down in the Southern Oceans to save fuel. Nobody complains. If I would do that in the Navy, where we’re all just doing our job because we need to pay the bills, I cannot imagine turning the heating off. Being somewhere in Norway or whatever because they would complain. Here we just put on another jumper, we walk a little bit faster to keep warm. They don’t care. If it saves us days to spend more days in the Southern Ocean looking for the fleet, they say, “Go for it”.


Sam: You’re in Dunedin calling in on the way back to Australia, having You’ve been at sea since December, is it?


Wyanda: Yes. We left Melbourne the third of December last year. We spent 83 days at sea. We have been contemplating filling the ship up with fuel and food and everything and going back down. Deep down in all our hearts that’s what we want to do. Because the Ocean Warrior, our second ship of Sea Shepherd is still down there, trying to chase the Nisshin Maru.


We also know where the Japanese fleet was located last. It’s over 3,000 miles away from Dunedin, which takes us at least two weeks to get there. That’s going down with good weather. It could even be longer. Instead, we’re starting to get to the end of the whaling season. The end of the whaling season is mid-March. It’s the end of February. If it takes us two weeks, we get there mid-March. Then, it’s really hard finding the Japanese whaling fleet. We might get there and they might be on their way up.


Sam: Don’t ships have to have a transponding thing on saying where they are?


Wyanda: Ships over a certain size need to have this, but as soon as those ships, like the Japanese whaling fleet, leaves territorial waters they turn it off.


Sam: So, you’re out there, going backwards and forwards trying to find them.


Wyanda: Yeah, as I told you, they have a self-allocated quota for 1035 whales. The area that on the scientific programme that they used to have until 2014 was not really a very big area down in the Southern Ocean. It was the Ross Sea, which is Australian. New Zealand has a part of territory waters there. There is a part that is French, but in 2014, the international court of justice and the Hague ruled that what they were doing was illegal, so they came up … That year, Japan did not go down to kill any whales. They came up with a new research programme in 2015 and we couldn’t go down because we didn’t have enough money to protect the whales. The self-allocated quota went down to 333, only Minke whales. Which for us is a massive win.


The plan is for 12 years. The number they don’t kill for one year, they can add on to next year. Even if we had managed to save 333 whales this year, they can add it on to the quota for next year. That will go on for another 10. Last year, they had 333 Minke whales. They killed them. The majority being pregnant females. We’re talking at least 500 Minke whales that they killed.


They also extended the search area to at least twice the size. This is massive. We’re talking about half of the Antarctic continent that we have to circumnavigate to try and find them. It’s like finding a semitrailer in the size of Australia. It’s really, really difficult. Lowering the number to 333, in all the years that we have been defending the whales in Antarctica, they never really managed to get much more than that number. For us to say we saved 333 lives is really not going to happen.


The most important thing that we can do now is, of course, I tried to save those 333 whales. Because it’s still too many. For us, we need to put pressure on the government, the Australian government, the New Zealand government, whoever owns territory waters there. Or whoever feels like those animals should be protected in the whale sanctuary, we need to convince the people that it needs to stop. There’s only one group of people that can do that and that’s the government. The rules are in place. It’s very easy. It’s the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.


Sam: Are the governments, are the navies down there doing the same things?


Wyanda: The Navy is not down there. Australia does have a custom built or purpose built ship. It’s an ice breaker. A few years ago, it was an election promise that they would send a ship down there. They never did. They flew a plane over where we were, but the plane can’t interfere. It can’t do anything apart from taking photos. It is important but they never did anything. Australia is not doing anything, as in the Australian government doesn’t do anything.


When we found the Nisshin Maru on the 15th of January this year, it was the day after Prime Minister Abe of Japan was actually in Australia. A lot of people say that we timed this, I don’t know why they even think that is possible. If I could time finding the whaling fleet, I would time it day one we arrived in the Southern Ocean. The prime minister of Japan and the prime minister of Australia they were slapping each other’s backs and they’re so happy with the good friends they are and the trade agreements they have and how well they can fill each other’s pockets. Yeah, our government basically says, “We’re very disappointed that you’re whaling again in the Southern Ocean,” that’s basically it.


Sam: The Japanese variously call you eco-terrorists and so on.


Wyanda: And pirates.


Sam: Pirates. You play that up yourself. You’re wearing a skull and crossbones.


Wyanda: If you look at our logo, we’ve done it. Paul Watson did that on purpose. Because they said, “You know, you guys are pirates.” If you look up the definition of pirates, it’s a ship at sea that doesn’t belong to a flag state. If we were pirates, we’re not allowed to fly the Dutch flag. We’re not pirates because we are registered in the Netherlands. Most of our ships are registered in the Netherlands. The Brigitte Bardot, I believe, is still registered in Australia.


If you have a good look at our logo, it is a skull, but it has a dolphin and a whale. Our crossbones are actually the trident of Neptune, the god of the sea. It’s not really skull and crossbones. Yeah, it’s a very well known logo. We have been asked to take down our pirate flag of the ship, to take it down in port. I said, “You know, it’s not a pirate flag, so we don’t have to take it down. We are not pirates.” I don’t care if they call us pirates. I don’t care if they call us ecoterrorists. Really honestly, you know, they can call us names whatever they want. It doesn’t hurt me. I think it makes us better anyway because we’re proud of what we stand for.


Sam: I was going to say, from your marketing background, it’s a good thing.


Wyanda: It’s a good thing.  They talk about us. That’s all we want. The most important thing that we can do this campaign we knew that it was really hard to stop the killing of 333 Minke whales. The most important thing for us to do was to show the world that they are whaling again in the Southern Ocean. Because a lot of people thought that Japan had given up, but they haven’t, they still do it. It’s a smaller number, which is great, but it’s still not small enough. It’s got to be zero.


We still know it’s commercial whaling. All we wanted to take away from this campaign is let the world know that they are still doing this. We still need to pressure the governments. There’s still a lot of people out there that never heard of Sea Shepherd and what we stand for. That was the most important thing. That’s what we wanted to show. That’s what we wanted to take away.


Of course, we wanted to keep that number zero. It’s so difficult. We just have two ships. They have the factory ship. They have the three harpoon vessels. Now they also have what they call a krill observation ship, but it’s just another security vessel to find and spot the Sea Shepherd vessels. Because as soon as they know where the Steve Irwin is, one of the harpoon vessels will be on our tail at all times.


We cannot out run them. We’re too slow. We had a harpoon vessel with us for 36 days after we found the Nisshin Maru. For 36 days, this ship has not been able to kill one single whale. Look at the running costs of our ship during campaigns, about $5,000, Australian dollars a day to run one ship. Our crew, the volunteers they don’t get any wages or anything.


The minimum cost to run a harpoon ship is at least $5,000 times 36 days. Then, there’s one harpoon ship continuously looking for the Ocean Warrior. That’s another $5,000 a day going down the drain. That’s two harpoon ships that can’t kill any whales. It’s just such a waste of money. It’s money that’s being paid by the Japanese people. It’s their tax money that’s going there.


Sam: Do you have supporters in Japan?


Wyanda: We do. We even have crew members on the ship from Japan. Yes, we do. There’s another very big campaign on land in Taiji where they capture and kill lots of dolphins that are being brought into the cove. We do have a lot of Japanese there fighting our cause as well. Yes, we do.


Sam: When you’re close to a ship, do you talk to them over the radio in Japanese?


Wyanda: No, we don’t. I tried to talk to them. I tried to communicate to them in English this year. That was when we got the harpoon ship following us. They do not respond on radio. Maritime language is English, it’s not Japanese. We all speak English. Most of us do anyway. I told them  that they were killing illegally in the Southern Ocean sanctuary. That they should stop their actions and go home. I was going to report them, which I did. There’s no reaction. The captains have been told not to talk to us, obviously.


Sam: You’ve got the advantage of a helicopter.


Wyanda: Yes, we do, which is really good. Because that was our means of finding when the whaling season has started. It was Franz, the helicopter pilot that found the Nisshin Maru. He has a cameraman and photographer in the helicopter at all times, when I send them out on a search pattern. They were able to get the photos and the videos that we’ve been able to send out to the world this year. It’s really important because the area now is so big. With a ship like the Steve Irwin being not so fast, we need that.



Sam: Do you need an incident, as well? What do you need to do to capture the imagination?


Wyanda: The most important thing is that, I guess, we can tell the world that Japan needs to stop killing whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. If we don’t have anything to support this, we can’t show that this is happening, although everybody knows that it’s happening, but a lot of people would rather close their eyes and not think about it. If it can bring out the images and they’re very graphic, that opens people’s eyes. Does it mean it needs to happen? Yes, we need to capture the moment that we find them hunting or killing whales because that’s what speaks to people’s imaginations. If they can actually see what’s happening, then people get upset and hopefully they will be upset enough to stand up with us and fight the governments on this.


Sam: We’re on the Steve Irwin. Tell me about the Steve Irwin.


Wyanda: The Steve Irwin was built in 1975. She’s actually quite an old lady. She was a fishery inspection vessel from Norway, from protecting the oceans in Europe, she’s now in protecting wildlife all around the world. It’s a very comfortable ship. She’s not new, but over the years, she built up a lot of character. She’s the flagship of the fleet. Paul Watson used to captain this ship quite a lot when he was still out at sea.


For me, being on the Steve Irwin, as captain, it was actually quite an honour. It is not a lot of captains have been here. There’s Paul Watson and Chief Jacob Arte, he’s one of the well known captains within Sea Shepherd. He took her down to the sea, down to the Southern Ocean the last time. Now it’s me. It’s an amazing ship. She’s very comfortable. She’s very stable. She handles the ocean very, very well. This is very important in the Southern Ocean because we all know about the screaming sixties and ferocious fifties. The sea state can change in no time. You really need a ship that can handle the sea quite well, and the Steve Irwin can.


Sam: What’s next for you?


Wyanda: My next step is to go home. We’re leaving on Monday, going back to Melbourne. Then, I go home and take a break. I want to see my dog. Then, I’m going to go see my parents in the Netherlands. It’s been awhile. I’ll take a break, and then, the campaign I did before the Southern Ocean campaign, operation was Operation Jeedara. It was a campaign in Australia to protect the great Australia bight from drilling of big oil companies in the great Australian bight. It was BP that wanted to drill, now BP has pulled out. It’s Chevron that still wants to drill for oil and Statoil. The great Australian bight is one of the few wonders we’ve got left in the world. It’s full of wildlife. The sea states there can be massive. Because there’s nothing between Antarctica and the great Australia bight in Australia.


We did that, we had media on board. We made a documentary that is going to be launched in April, the end of April. I will be there with Jeff Hanson, which is the Sea Shepherd Australia director. Bob Brown our ex Greens leader and one of the aboriginal Mirning Elders that was with us on the campaign. We’re going to launch this documentary. That will be my next, next thing with Sea Shepherd, which is not on ship, but it’s on land.


Then, they’ll just call me and let me know when I may need to step on the ship before. It could be the Steve Irwin. It could be the Brigitte Bardot. It could be the Sam Simon. It doesn’t really matter. We don’t necessarily have the same ship at all times. We have to be flexible. They just tell you, “We need you here.” You can either say yes or no. I’ve come to the stage where I don’t really say no anymore. Because I love what I do. I think our cause is absolutely great. There’s not so many captains that do this kind of thing or that can afford to do this. I can. I think it’s right.


Sam: Is it a juggle, managing a ship and managing a campaign? Or are they the same thing really?


Wyanda: There is a campaign leader on land. It’s Alex Cornelissen. He’s the Sea Shepherd global director in Amsterdam. He’s a campaign leader. We have a whole media team on shore that helps us. Helps us spread the word, once we’ve found the Nisshin Maru. It is a juggle, already to manage a ship in the Southern Ocean with 35 other crew members. The good thing is that we want to be there. We all are so passionate. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Managing a ship is difficult as in you are in the Southern Ocean. You are so far away from the world. If something happens and the weather is so unpredictable and it can be quite dangerous.


The career isn’t really the hardest thing. It’s just doing the campaign and trying to find the Japanese whaling fleet. Communications with the Ocean Warrior, Captain Adam Meyerson, he’s on the ocean where it’s sometimes very difficult because you are in Antarctica and although we do have satellite phones, we do have internet, it doesn’t always work. Our communications to land and to other ships is difficult. Everything together we have the two captains, we have onshore help, the campaign leader. The whole media team behind us obviously. We have a team on board but also media team on the shore. One in Australia, one in the Netherlands. It doesn’t matter what time it is, for us, there’s always somebody available media-wise to help us to get the word out what we need or what we want to get out.


Sam: You have certainly got the attention and emotion perhaps of the community, the huge queues on the wharf yesterday.


Wyanda: Yes, absolutely. I understood that 80 to 90% of New Zealanders are behind what we do. We know in Australia we have the support of over 80% of what we do of the Australian people and still the government is not listening.


Sam: Are the governments opposed or just not engaging?


Wyanda: That’s a difficult question, they’re definitely not engaging. I think for them, it’s just not important enough because it doesn’t matter what you do with animals and in protecting lives. There’s no money in it. We all know the only reason they want to be friends with Japan is because they want to fill their own pockets. This is how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.


Sam: Okay some questions to finish with. Do you have a go-to definition of sustainability?


Wyanda: I think awareness. People get aware of what’s happening in the world is very important. If they don’t know that if we don’t live sustainably then it doesn’t matter what you do. Obviously, I think that the life in the ocean … What Paul Watson says is true. If the oceans die, we die. If the oceans die, we die. If we can’t fish sustainably, the ocean’s going to be empty by 2050 and life on Earth won’t exist as we know it.


Sam: Are you opposed to all fishing?


Wyanda: I’m not opposed to all fishing. I’m not opposed to sustainable fishing. I’m not against Eskimos up in northern Canada that kill seals for a living, but they use every single piece of it. They use the skin. They use skin for boots and everything. They don’t have other means. They can’t go to the supermarket. I’m against the illegal fishing, of course, illegal scientific research. I’m against massive corporations that are being sponsored by crime syndicates. That do have a few legal boats out in the ocean, but they do have some illegal boats. Those illegal boats often they catch onto the legal boats. That’s how it gets mixed up and they get away with it. Because our ice fish campaigns were really … they really broke open that whole … Nobody actually knew about it. It really got so much attention to what was happening. No, I’m not against all kinds of fishing.


Sam: We’re writing a book about these conversations. We’re calling it “Tomorrow’s Heroes” in that we’re asking people to describe their super power. What is it that they’re bringing to the fight for the positive future. What’s your special super power?


Wyanda: Mine or Sea Shepherd’s?


Sam: We’ll get to yours first, then we’ll ask Sea Shepherd.


Wyanda: My super power, I think it’s passion and being able to motivate the crew to keep doing what they’re doing out at sea, so we can help create awareness in the world.


Sam: What’s Sea Shepherd’s?


Wyanda: I think Sea Shepherd’s power is very close to mine. It’s being able to have so many passionate people trying to help reach a goal. Which is defending helpless marine life forever in the world by using the ships as direct action. Direct action is the key for Sea Shepherd. There’s plenty of organisations out there that fight for the same worldwide funds, Greenpeace. Greenpeace went down in the Southern Ocean, the last time they went down was 2008. This is our eleventh campaign. We keep going. Direct action is the key. If you don’t actively defend the animals out there, losses don’t change overnight.


Sam: I think you’ve just answered this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Do you consider yourself to be an activist?


Wyanda: Yes, I do.


Sam: Why?


Wyanda: Well, because I and the rest within Sea Shepherd, we stand up for what is right. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we stand up for the law. Although, like with this campaign, the laws are in place, but there’s nobody to enforce them. We want to make sure that it is being done.


Sam: How far would you push that?


Wyanda: Alex Cornelissen, he is the Sea Shepherd Australia, sorry Sea Shepherd global director. I told him I’ll do whatever is necessary to protect the whales. That’s what Sea Shepherd does.


Sam: Would you risk the life of your … You’re already risking the life … putting people out in little boats in the Southern Ocean. How far can you push that?


Wyanda: As I said before, every crew member when they step onboard a Sea Shepherd ship going to sea, they know they’re going to risk their life, at some stage, protecting the animals. Obviously, especially in the Southern Ocean, this is a very important thing. It can be very likely a few years ago, the Bob Barker during one of the operations in the Southern Ocean got sandwiched between the Nisshin Maru and the Sun Laurel. The Sun Laurel is the re-fueling tanker that they charter for the whole whaling season. The Bob Barker is only half the size of those two ships and they had to throw out a mayday because the Nisshin Maru was pushing so much that it nearly capsized. It’s a big risk we’re taking. Over the years, the Japanese whaling fleet has become more aggressive towards us because they’re not able to meet their quota. They are losing a lot of money.


I told my crew clearly before I left that I am willing to take those risks, if they don’t appreciate that, they are not willing to take it, they are okay to leave the ship, before departure, obviously, but nobody leaves. How do you manage that? Obviously, I need to assess the situation if we do get a confrontation. We did not really have a confrontation this year, so I didn’t have to think about what I was doing. It is something that is on my mind constantly down in the Southern Ocean. How am I going to handle what kind of situation. What I think with all my sea going experience and being an ex-Navy officer, I think we are kind of trained to make decisions on the spot.


Sam: Not get too excited perhaps.


Wyanda: No, and I know a lot of crew … There’s a lot of crew … In the past, a lot of crew wanted to join because of Whale Wars. Because that’s what they wanted, the direct action, the confrontations. Of course, there’s always crew disappointed that we did not have a confrontation this year. That’s not why we go down there. I go down there to protect the whales, not to have a confrontation with Japanese whaling fleet. Which is linked together. If I could stop the Japanese whaling fleet from killing any whales without a confrontation, I would do so. Because it’s still also my responsibility to get a crew home, safely and in one piece.


Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?


Wyanda: The animals, the whales, absolutely.


Sam: What challenges are you looking forward to in the next couple of years? Are you going to keep doing this?


Wyanda: I will keep doing this. Honestly, I can’t see myself doing anything else at the moment. I’ve done this since 2013 now. I never thought that I … the same as with the wildlife shelter, I would go there for a week which turns out two weeks, four weeks. I loved it and I stayed for three years. Now, I do this. My passion has always been water and animals. Now I combine these.


I never thought I would be a captain in the Sea Shepherd. Because in the Navy I didn’t have no ambitions, whatsoever. I just wanted to do something that I enjoy and now I’m here. I love it. Yes, I think I’ll be doing this for a while. It’s an organisation that does what I stand for. We have the same, I think we have the same view of life, and that’s being so nice on a ship. Because when I was at the shelter and me being so passionate about saving animals, I never met people who thought the same as me.


Well my boss at the wildlife shelter, Klina, she thought the same. I love animals. Most of the time more than people. I never thought there was so many people out there that thought the same. Then I joined Sea Shepherd and I came onto the ship and the people thought the same. I thought, “Wow, this is amazing.” A whole world opened up.


My challenge would be, for me, I’m ready to go back down next year to the Southern Ocean to defend the whales. As I said, Sea Shepherd can ask me to go to any kind of campaign. If it’s defending whales or sharks or dolphins or sea urchins or whatever, it doesn’t really matter for me. I’m here to do what they want me to do. I will defend turtles or whales with the same passion as I’ve gone to the Southern Ocean or defend kangaroos and koalas.


Sam: Perhaps somewhere warmer and calmer water.


Wyanda: Yeah that would be nice at times. I think we have been very lucky this campaign, we’ve had quite nice weather. Even the transit down and back up here to New Zealand. Of course I look at the weather forecast, but you can’t always outrun the weather. I think we’ve been kind of lucky. We did not have waves higher than five or six metres which is not too bad considering.


Sam: What can you operate in? What can you put the little boats out in?


Wyanda: The small boats, if we pitch too much, we can’t launch small boats, so sea state of a metre and a half I would reckon that’s going to be nearly impossible.


Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur, what would you have happen?


Wyanda: I think there’s two things that I need to do, that I  would like to have happen. First of all, I want to end animal cruelty in the world. I think a lot of that connects with religion. I think if we could get rid of religion, we can get rid of a lot of shit that happens in the world, so to say.


Sam: What’s the smallest thing that would make the biggest possible difference towards that?


Wyanda: I think if people would respect each other a little bit more, regardless of religion, or regardless of what you stand for. The smallest thing that could produce change or help us is the smallest donation of whatever kind for Sea Shepherd that is going to help us to try and change the world. I know we won’t change the world overnight. I know Japan is not going to give up whaling next year or the year after, but even a donation of 50 cents towards Sea Shepherd will help us fight our fight and will keep us going in the next years.


Sam: Lastly, you’ve just answered this as well, but I’m going to ask it anyway, because then it’s going to get you a free hit. Do you have any advice for our listeners?


Wyanda: Advice for your listeners, I think, regardless what you believe in, I think it’s good to stand up for what you believe in, within you’ve got to look at the law and what’s allowed obviously. It would be good for people to open their eyes and realise the things that are happening in their own back yard. A lot of people do not know about all the illegal, unreported fishing and over fishing of the oceans. They need to have a look at what they actually put on their plates. Where does it come from? How has it been caught? Have a look at that and then decide again what you eat.


I don’t want everybody to become vegans, although our ships are vegan. Not everybody needs to become vegetarians but have a good look at what is actually happening out there. Not just seafood, but any food that you put on your plate, that can make such a big difference. If you realise that we can’t keep going like this. We can’t have so many billion people in the world and keep eating what we’re eating. It’s impossible.


Sam: Thank you very much for joining me.


Wyanda: You’re very welcome.





You’ve been listening to Sustainable Lens, Resilience on radio, a weekly show on sustainability topics. Brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher and me, Samuel Mann. We’re broadcast on Otago radio and podcast on On sustainable, we’re building up a search blog of conversations with people from many different fields who are applying their skills to a sustainable future.


In our conversations we try to find what motivates them and what it means to see the world through a sustainable perspective, through their sustainable lens. Tonight’s sustainable lens was that of Captain Wyanda Lublick of the Steve Irwin, from the Sea Shepherd organisation. He’s been chasing the Japanese whaling fleet around the Antarctic. We’re off tomorrow to Melbourne.


Wyanda: Melbourne, yes.


Sam: Then to home.


Wyanda: Then I go home.


Sam: You can follow our links on Sustainable Lens to find us on Facebook. You can listen to Sustainable Lens via iTunes and various other places for free. That was Sustainable Lens. I’m Samuel Mann. I hope you enjoyed the show.


community social work

Engaging community


John Stansfield teaches Community Practice at Unitec in Auckland where they teach both undergraduate and post-graduate programmes in community development as well as social work and counselling.  He’s worked extensively in community development in his own community – notably Waiheke Island – as well as Palmerston North, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands.  He is chairing the upcoming Aotearoa Community Development conference.


 Shane Welcome to the show John.


John: Thank you very much, gentlemen.


Shane: What we normally do is start off with a little bit about your past. Where were you born John?


John: I was born at a tragically early age in Auckland and I grew up initially in Te Atatu which is a glorious suburb on the harbour, in the upper harbour. I went to school there and lived there until I was about a teen or so when my parents had some kind of crazy idea and moved just to the Bible belt of Mount Roskill which amongst the many facilities it didn’t have, it didn’t even have a pub. I became bored with it quite quickly and at 18 I decamped and went and lived in the bush in Papua New Guinea for eighteen or twenty months or so.


As far as growing up I’m still doing it. It’s been a long and difficult childhood.


Sam: What did you want to be when you grew up?


John: Goodness. Retired.


Shane: You went to Papua New Guinea and then you came back to New Zealand obviously at some point. What brought you back and what did you learn in Papua New Guinea?


John: Papua New Guinea was a transformative experience. I went there in 1976. It was a newly independent country. In fact tried to go in 1975 just as it became independent but they didn’t have embassies, you couldn’t get visas and it was terribly difficult. I got there and I worked as a motor mechanic in training, people in small engines in the bush in what’s now called Sandaun Province which was then the West Sepik as a volunteer and lived very simply in villages. Met all kinds of fabulous, fabulous characters. The ‘land of the unexpected’ as they call Papua New Guinea has a way of seeping into you and calling you back. I think I’ve been back more than twenty times since I left. I was fortunate enough, in fact, to go back and do some teaching up there, then later to go back and do some work for Oxfam. It’s a fabulous, fabulous country.


Shane: What first got you interested in going to Papua New Guinea? That’s not a standard path. Most people when they’re 18 head off to Europe or America. Why PNG and-


John: Well, in common with most 18 year old males it was not a rational decision. I think it was something which came about as an argument in a pub about whether I should join this movement to not have beer and pies on a Friday and put the money into aid and development, and being fond of beer and pies as my girth will tell you, I had to argue against it all. Actually I argue against just about anything, and said I’d far rather do something more practical with my skills and somebody called my bluff and said, “Actually there’s this unpaid job in the bush in the mosquito infested hell hole.” The West Sepik has the best mosquitoes in the world. They need clearance from civil aviation to land. They frequently make off with calves and small children.


My bluff was called and I couldn’t back out and I went.


Shane: That must have been an amazing experience. Obviously you’re extremely fond of the country and the people. You came back to New Zealand what was your plan when you came back? Did you have a plan?


John: Sitting around in the bush with not too much to do but chew beetle nut and occasionally get a bit of wireless you get a bit of time to think and I decided that I really wanted to come back and study social work, but particularly what I thought was community social work which turned out to be community development. Just to add familiar with the term, I think of it as community development is the crucible of democracy. It’s the place where citizens come together to share their dreams and plan their common futures. It’s a way of collectively organising to make life better and that became my discipline and I’ve kept it for the rest of my life, and something I’m enormously fond of and very proud of and which defines me. These days I’m a senior lecturer community development, having become too old for useful work, I’ve returned to academia where it’s not object to advancement. I’m on the Board of the International Association of Community Development, and I’m chairing the Aotearoa Association and chairing the National Conference, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go on tour in March last year through India with twenty other community development practitioners. It’s fabulous. It’s better than religion.


Shane: Community development obviously is different depending what communities you’re in. The community in Papua New Guinea might be different to what community here or in Ireland or in India. What are the common themes and what are the differences and what do you have to be careful of going in…?


John: The great trap in community development is you really can’t have much of an agenda of your own. You have to help people find the agenda that they want. To give you an example, I chair a fabulous little organisation called the Waiheke Resources Trust. It does all kinds of fabulous projects in community development. We got a little grant here at council to see whether we could do something about food waste. Almost all the work that’s done on food waste is done after you’ve wasted the food. It’s a deeply stupid place to intervene in a problem. Myself and a young colleague intern wrote a paper doing a Lit review from around the world on food waste and said, “You got to start somewhere else”.  We put this thing through to the Ministry for the Environment and they were pretty excited about it. Then they had a change of leadership and no one was really excited again.  We pitched away and did a little trial at home. Ultimately we got the local council to say, “We’ll put some money behind you. Go and see what you can do.” They sent us off to a fabulous community we chose on Waiheke called Blackpool. Blackpool has a resident’s association which exists under the name BRA. The Blackpool Residents Association that came together when the community was flooded some years earlier. It had been little bit in abeyance.


We got that community together and we said, “Let’s spend an afternoon dreaming about what we’d really like in this community.” I kept in the background that we had a couple of young women, one of whom was working for us and one of whom was working for council in facilitating this process. “That’s good, we’ve got all your ideas, we’re going to write them up, we’re going to bring you back and John will cook you a lovely three course dinner with wine and candles and everything, then we’ll narrow it down and we’ll come up with what we’re going to do.” What we were wanting to do was inject some enthusiasm around sustainability and food waste. What the residents came up with is that they really wanted a pub. I thought fantastic, I can go back to the council and say, “Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for your money. Got nowhere on the sustainability, but the residents would like a pub, preferably on your land.”


This could be the severely career limiting approach but actually we worked with that community and they got a pub, it’s a fantastic thing. It’s called the Dog and Pony and it pops up. It’s a pop-up pub, it pops up in a public building every few weeks and people bring their biscuits and their nibbles and their bottle of wine or their homemade beer and their violin and they have a fabulous time in their own community and they walk to it, walk home. No one gets killed in the process. The purpose of that story is to illustrate how it’s actually got to be the community’s decision what they want. Having got there and had the pub delivered, we were able to see who leaders were in that community and get alongside them and say, “Can we do something around food waste?” We did a fantastic trial there and really significantly reduced the waste of food and learned a whole lot that we’re now rolling out in other communities.


Sam: Is that easier or harder on an island?


John: It’s much easier on an island. Everything’s easier on an island. Not everything, you would run out of water here, that’s not easier. Your relationships are far more intimate. Everybody’s recycled. You have to be a little bit more both self-reliant and collectively reliant on each other to make things work. There’s an opening. I think on this island it’s a very proud history of concern about the environment and of being unafraid to stand up and be counted on things. We were the first place in New Zealand to be nuclear free. I think we were the first council to declare ourselves GE free. When the boats left for Moruroa, they largely came from Waiheke. We’re a great bunch. It’s very easy to find other people of like mind in this community to do something that’s better for everyone.


Sam: Then you have a council that is representing all of Auckland and does things like destroy your waste management system.


John: You’ve got to have the time sense of a geologist to appreciate these things you see. We originally had a couple of roads boards here, that then got made into the Waiheke County Council. I remember the Waiheke County Council very fondly. A place where politics became a blood sport and source of local entertainment where people jostled to get a seat at the local council meeting, try deftly to be upwind of Fred Burrock who hadn’t washed. We were one fantastic county. We did things like say, “It’s our island and we’re going to green it.” They built their own nursery, employed four or five islanders and every ratepayer could front up and get three trees any time he liked. They get your fruit trees and fruit trees were planted on the road verges, in public parks and all over the place.


That was fabulous. Then it was compulsory amalgamated with Auckland City Council which is no longer. Waiheke revolted of course because the first thing that the good burghers of Rocky Bay knew about the amalgamation is they came down their muddy track with the carefully sorted recycling was a big flash new council truck going past and threw the whole lot into a compactor and took it off to a hole in the ground. We were pretty vexed and aggrieved about that.


When the Royal Commission on the Governance of Auckland asked the then 1.4 million people of the region to comment on their plan, 28.8% of all submissions came from the 0.8% of the people who lived on Waiheke who demanded that the commission come here and explain themselves about how we were going to do without local governance. Ourselves and the Great Barrier community won their own local governments back. Yes, it’s true that we did lose the fabulous social enterprise in rubbish but we’ll win it back. We [inaudible 00:12:46], we can write.


Shane: It sounds like there was already a community there to work with. How do you development a community where the one doesn’t already exist or it’s very fragile?


John: There’s been some great work done around that in New Zealand and overseas. In fact, I had a cup of tea this morning with my very good friend, Gavin Rooney who at 76 has just retired from being a senior lecturer in Community Development. He was the first local authority community worker employed in New Zealand. They put him in the new Nappy Alley suburbs of Massey out in West Auckland. When he finished his term, they didn’t appoint a new one, the council, because they had so much trouble with the last one. He just very patiently went around, getting to know people, linking people up. Getting conversations going about things. Similarly a great New Zealand community worker was Wendy Craig who worked in the Takaro community of Palmerston North. Was very famous there when the hospital board were considering closing a maternity unit. Wendy got a whole bunch of mothers with crying babies to go to the hospital board meeting. I think it was a bit of judicious bottom pinching during the meeting because the meeting had to be abandoned there was so many crying babies. The board got the message, they shouldn’t mess with the women of Takaro.


It’s a gentle process of getting to know people, finding their interests, linking them up with each other. Making it possible for people to believe that they can control their own futures and have a say. Once you get to that point it’s pretty unstoppable.


Sam: We visited Oamaru last year, or the year before, they have got a really strong transition town movement. They’ve got a really good summer school and they’ve got their, what do they call it…The waste recycling system, they’re planting trees on every street frontage. Whole pile of things. We thought, “This is amazing. We have to go and find out they’re managing this. How is the whole town in behind transitional Oamaru?” It turns out it’s not. There’s about six people doing everything but what they’re doing is doing things that other people would get engaged in. Even if they think the transitional town people are a bit weird, they still recognise that having fruit trees in front of their house is a good thing.


John: Transition towns, it’s somewhat kind of like a brand really. They came to Waiheke and the next thing we noticed was all kinds of things we’d already been doing with transition town things. That’s good. They’re able to reach a different constituency. Every little tribe that marches in a similar direction that reaches a new constituency makes us all collectively stronger. It’s great.


Kaikoura is another place that’s fabulous. Kaikoura, when I was down there last week helping sort the rubbish on the line in the recycling plant because her brother, Robbie Roach, is the manager of Innovative Waste Kaikoura. He is facing a mountain of construction and demolition waste and working out has a community they can make the best of that. Wonderful. There is actually a lot of be said for rubbish. I started to think that we’ve got to grab hold of all the rubbish and keep it for the poor before the rich find out how bloody valuable it is.


Sam: One time I visited Waiheke and the rubbish was sitting in some sort of carton or big crate thing on the wharf. I thought, “All the people that go over the wharf can see this is the result of our through-put.” It’s nice and visible. You don’t need to have a website or anything. Unfortunately that’s gone. My question though, was is there a tipping point of how much community engagement you need to actually make a difference?


John: If I refer back to my good friend Wendy Craig, who’s a very wise woman. She said once, “If you’re fun to be with, they’ll always be people with you.” Two essential ingredients for good community development are fun, coupled with a deep seed irreverence, and food. If you put those two things together you can find ways to build bridges and get people engaged. Once people become engaged in their own neighbourhood and there’s oodles of research out that says people want to be more engaged and they want to do that locally. Somewhere where they live. We just seem to have built a social structure that’s going entirely in the wrong direction for that. Some clever marketing guru gets hold it, they’ll be community development on sale.


I suppose there is a kind of tipping point but it’s a tipping point. It just takes a little bit of enthusiasm in pulling people together and it has its successes and its failures. It requires some judicious thinking about what would be good early successes because nothing succeeds like success. People’s experience of a win is very empowering.


Sam: You’ve written about foreign issues. You write about gambling and the relationship between gambling and public health. What’s the cross over between that and the collective organising and community development we’ve been talking about?


John: Sure. This second stint in academia. I was here in the mid-90s and I founded a graduate programme in not-for-profit management. I started to wonder, I actually wondered this on a beach with a great American guy called Tim McMain. We sat on a beach and wondered this together whether the biggest threat to biodiversity was not the loss of Hochstetter’s Frog, or the Maui dolphin, but the most important biodiversity was the biodiversity of thought. What I observed happening around the world in terms of governance and management was that there was starting to be a one true solution, one size fits all. Funnily enough it happened to be the one that culturally suited white men in suits from Boston. You saw other ways of doing and knowing and thinking being pushed out to the margins. When I looked at the impact of that on the community sector I became deeply concerned at the kind of corporatization that was happening all over the place that was actually driving out the most important thing we do in the community organisation which is giving people the opportunity to belong. Belonging is just really important for people and for healthy societies. If you don’t think it’s important, go to court on a Monday morning. You’re not going to find many playcentre mums.


We started to think about this thing about actually the way we manage community organisations has to palpably different, it has to have its own kaupapa, it has to have its own culture. It has to have a consistency, because you don’t have the same tools. You don’t have the same money that you can incentivize and you don’t have the legislative power of the state. All you have is trying to get people to line up around some values.


I did that for nine years and then I did a dangerous thing – I had a holiday. I woke up from that I thought, “I wonder if I’ll still be here, preaching on like this in thirty years time. I should go and find out if it works.” I looked for a broken community organisation which was the Problem Gambling Foundation. I was fortunate enough to be appointed their CEO, and I had a really fantastic five years. Learning about gambling and its impact. My thinking is very influenced by the late, great Bill Mollison who developed Permaculture. I’m sure some of your listeners will know about Bill and he and David Holmgrem’s work.


When I got to the Problem Gambling Foundation, things were quite broken so I couldn’t hop into the track and blast off into the sunset. None of the gears worked, the wiring was buggered, and the finance system didn’t work. It was just a bloody mess. It was a lot of grunt work to be done for about three months. While I was doing that I decided I’d have a Masters level education in gambling. Every night I would read two or three hours worth of papers from around the world about gambling. What I quickly found out is that more than half of them had all the validity of 1950s tobacco research, and for exactly the same reason. Just as the tobacco companies corrupted the research sector by buying it, so had the gambling industry. That really made it hard. I didn’t know. I didn’t know what the answer was. I had to keep looking, keep looking, keep looking. One night about 10:00 I came across one statistic and it showed me that ten years earlier, no New Zealand women had come to treatment for gambling problems. Yet, now in 2003 this was, more than half the people coming were women.


If you approach that bit of statistic with the traditional addictions lens, and addictions looks at the person who is harmed after the harm has happened and says, “What is the matter with the person?” Then the question you ask is what happened to New Zealand women that they all got so weak over ten years? Mine has not been a life which has been surrounded by weak New Zealand women. I tend to end up with the very mouthy, stroppy ones. There’s still time. It’s a species I’m interested I’m explore. I thought, “This just doesn’t make bloody sense.” I fell back on my trade union background, I thought, “If I’d gone to a mill and there were three blokes sitting around with their arms cut off, my first thing wouldn’t be to get them into a support group and say, “now come on you fellas, what happened in your earlier lives that caused you to cut your arms off?” Essentially that’s what we were doing with gamblers. We were getting people who would come in who were deeply harmed and saying, “This is your fault in some way.” It isn’t.


The normal outcome of regular use of a pokie machine is that you’ll be harmed by it. It’s a deeply, deeply pernicious industry and it extracts money out of the communities that can least afford it. You follow the capital flows? It’s a transfer of wealth from the women to the men, from the brown to the white and from the poor to the rich. Once I understood that, I knew that it was deeply offensive and I could have a great deal of fun fighting it. It’s just like any other kind of plunder, environmental plunder or community plunder.


Shane: Why has New Zealand’s society allowed that or constructed a system? This kind of gambling, for instance, isn’t simply legal back in Ireland and I was really shocked when I came over here to see the pokie machines and the casinos. What allowed that? What was the construct there?


John: I’ve always wondered if in Ireland the reason it didn’t go ahead was because the church couldn’t find a way to control it. Just as an aside.  The way gambling gets in everywhere is a bit of a standard method and it’s lies, deception and corruption. They have fantastic relationships with senior people in government. I can think of a fellow in a one man party, and I don’t mean David Seymour, who in his entire career in politics has never voted against the gambling industry, the liquor industry or the tobacco industry. He stands for Family First party. Think about that.


They use all kinds of chicanery in communities and they have got oodles and oodles of money. I often used to say, “Any idiot could run a pokie trust and usually does.”


Sam: What do you do about trying to change that behaviour if you’re taking that collective responsibility role that you’re talking about. The point is that it’s already normalised.


John: People aren’t stupid. In fact what you see happening with the pokie industry up until the last two quarters is a poisoning of the well. There’s very few people in this country now who don’t know somebody or some family that’s been blighted by those machines. It’s really, really hard to walk into anywhere they are and imagine that there’s something glamorous going on. All you really have to do to fight against this is number one, tell the truth, and we tell the truth about it on a daily basis through a news feed called Today’s Stories that a wonderful woman named Donna in Auckland puts together every morning. Gets on my desk about 7 a.m. and it’s a summary of all the gambling stories in New Zealand and around the world.


You find things like the second biggest motivator for organised fraud, white collar crime, and this is a top accounting firm study, is gambling. Unless you look at the charitable sector alone in which case it’s always the highest motivator. Gambling is only allowed in our society really for charitable purposes but the people most likely get harmed by the charities. When you start to tell that story repeatedly it starts to become true. The latest surveys by the Department of Internal Affairs now show that the majority of New Zealanders don’t think it’s a good idea to fund communities out of the gambling industry. While the minister, Minister Dunne, is desperately trying to liberalise the regime and ensure that pokie machines are a sustainable industry. You can’t put glitter on a turd. It just isn’t going to work. Ultimately, people will throw them out and I think we will look back on this period of our history with a sense of deep shame and say, “How did we allow that level of exploitation of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens.” Make no mistake it’s the poor who pay the price of pokie gambling.


I put a picket on a pub in Manurewa years ago and they have 5.1 million dollars from that poor, poor, poor South Auckland suburb leave town. Some of the money went to charity, it went to the Otago Rugby Union, and the Canterbury Jockey Club. The horse owners which apparently is a sport. Not one red cent went back into that community yet there were moms dropping the kids off at school in their dressing gowns coming into that pub playing those machines. Desperate to try and win some of it back.


Sam: Talking about stories and telling the truth, I’m thinking about now as we move very quickly into what’s being referred to as post-truth, or whatever. We’ve been having the same thing on a lesser level for quite a long time here about the story, it’s all right Jack, everything’s wonderful on Planet Key. Is that making it harder to engage communities because they’re being told so strongly that everything’s all right?


John: Yeah. There’s certainly something very comforting about the news according to Mike Hoskins. It doesn’t really bear looking at. Put it in context to the States, I was in the States during the period of the conventions. I just couldn’t believe it. Come on, you people, you’re not stupid are you? What’s going on? You wonder how long it would be before particularly working class middle America wakes up and realises they’re seriously being duped. There is I think a real risk in our society in the decline in journalism. I don’t mean that journalists are any less than there ever were, great journalists in this country but there’s a hell of a lot less of them. They’ve got a hell of a lot less time to do their job. There’s a lot of stuff that’s just sliding by. I just about fell off the chair when I read that we were the least corrupt country in the world.


Sam: You’ve written about gagging, I think in relation to Christchurch. Do you think we’ve got a problem with people in government, local government, national government, being told what they can and can’t say?


John: Yes we have. It gets passed down so that one of the real roles of the community sector, and community development organisations is to get people together and speak on their behalf. What we’ve seen with the rise of contractaulism and the relationship between government and the community sector is that those contracts are used to exercise gagging and changes in governance and all manner of restrictions. I remember at the Problem Gambling Foundation getting told that we provide free counselling services in prison. That we would not be able to have a contract if we continued to provide free counselling services in prison. Their organisation was actually born in prison. A couple of guys realised they were in prison because they gambled, they decided they were going to do something about it. We had very deep roots to that. I said to the officials at the time, “Hell will freeze over guys. Let’s see who’s going to blink first.”


We were a long time, many, many, many months with no income. Staring down the barrel of that thing. You can’t withhold medical treatment, which is what counselling services, from people in prison. That’s in breach of international human rights codes. We won’t participate with it. Boy, did that organisation get punished by the Ministry of Health for having an ethical position. They certainly did. They still got that ethical position I’m proud to say.


Shane: Do other organisations look at that example and then think we’d better not cross government?


John: Yeah. Absolutely. A terribly expensive case for an organisation to have to take. All brilliant work that was done by a fantastic team of lawyers but by golly it doesn’t come cheap. Just to preserve what you already had.


Shane: What we’re saying is what we’re seeing happening in America in a radical and very clear way, has been happening slowly here for a long time?


John: Yes, I do think some of that but I also think that we owe it to our communities not to be timid and not to self-censor. I can put up with being censored by the state, I can rebel against it, I can speak out against it, but I’m far more worried about people doing the Nervous Nellie and self-censoring to please.


Sam: You’re Head of Department of Social Practise-


John: I was Head of Department, I’m happily now … Poor Robert Ford has that honour. I’m now Senior Lecturer in Community Development.


Sam: Okay. You’re teaching people how to be community development practitioners.


John: Yes.


Sam: Are you training them to be trouble makers?


John: Absolutely. Definitely. We’re training them to be true, to look at injustice and impoverishment and know where they’re going to stand. Really they are the most delightful students. It must of been 2015 I think, I had a student come into my office breathlessly and say, “I did something!” I said, “That’s good, we’ve all done something. What is it you’ve done?” “I can’t even tell you.” She passed me a phone and she set up a Facebook page to plan a protest on TV 3 about the proposed closure of Campbell Live. I said, “That’s fantastic. Terrific! We’ll talk with the class about it.” She said, “I’ve never been to a protest before!” “Oh well, that’s fine. We’ll have a look on the computer, we’ll find you one to go to.”


Her group of them went off down and helped the McDonald’s workers fight the good fight against zero hours contracts. Then they lead a protest march to TV 3 and they got inside and occupied the building and had a wonderful time. Sat on the floor and slapped their thighs and said, “This is what democracy looks like,” and I was terribly, terribly proud of them because that’s how you build a people who will not be bowed. The risk that we have all around the world at the moment is that government’s lose the understanding that they government by consent and that that consent can be withdrawn.


Sam: Those young graduates of yours, the ones you’ve trained to be trouble makers, they have to go into organisations that rely on government funding.


John: They do.


Sam: How are they going to manage that tension?


John: Life’s full of difficulties. I talked to one just the other day who did a TV show by posing as school children buying single cigarettes. She’s happily found work in a tobacco control agency. I think young people are actually pretty smart. What I observe happening around the place is some very good advocacy training is going on. I went out on Saturday night and I met Sandy, the producer of the documentary Beautiful Democracy which is about the young people who lead the TPPA protests. Gosh, my heart was so warmed by the fact that these young people were really deeply thinking about their tactics, what would work and trying things out. Doing fantastic research. Really deeply engaging in this society because engaged citizens aren’t the ones you’ve got to fear. It’s the ones who aren’t engaged you’ve got to be worried about.


Sam: You are chairing, I think, the Community Development Association conference coming up-


John: I am. yes, it’s a fantastic honour. I’m thrilled to bits.


Sam: What sort of things can we expect? I should say I’m going to it.


John: It’s going to be fantastic, really is. We’ve got, as of this afternoon, 170-odd people from around the world coming. What we’re doing is we’re using a community development lens for by and large people are community activists, community development practitioners and academics and leaders. We’re using that to look at the United Nations have deemed Agenda 2030. Which is the goal of sustainable development. Ordinarily if you wanted to talk about the United Nations, you put me into a deep sleep instantly. The seventeen goals for sustainable development are a fifteen year plan for the whole world, and they are just about the most important things we could be dealing with. It’s ending poverty, it’s ending hunger. It’s about having gender equality, it’s about having good health care. It’s about having good education, and other things that you wouldn’t expect. Like access to clean and affordable energy.


One of the guests who’s coming in is Kalyan Paul who’s from Pan Himalayan Grassroots Development Foundation and is from Ranikhet in the Almora District, Uttarakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas. I went up and visited him and he works with the forest dwellers and the people who live in the deep, deep valleys. We were talking about Agenda 2030 which brings together a lot of social goals with a lot of environmental goals. He said to me, “Look, it was inevitable. This is completely inevitable. We’ve known this would happen.” Where did he bloody know that sitting up here? He said, “You can’t protect the forest if the people have no fuel for their cooking. You simply can’t do it.” The only way we’ve managed to protect all this beautiful forest is by addressing the problem, and that is they built small biogas plants. They take the cow dung and human dung and produce gas which does the cooking and lighting. The houses don’t need to walk miles into the forest and cut the trees down. Then you can protect the forest.


Very practical solutions but based on some really good deep thinking. This wonderful confluence of the social and the economic and the environmental. It’s a really exciting time because many people in community development actually have got a huge contribution to make to the way we take this stuff forward. Companies are looking at this stuff. One of the big multi-nationals, I can’t remember exactly the name. They probably made your toothpaste and soap this morning. They have so many tens of thousands that they give out in grants and they have so many thousand days a year of corporate volunteering. They just announced Agenda 2030, as of June all about volunteering, all about donations and everything, are going to be targeted on the seventeen sustainable development goals. All of our industries are going to be measured against their contributions to those goals. This is really big, big stuff.


Sam: All right. We’re running out of time and I’ve got seven questions to ask.


John: I’ll try to be brief.


Sam: We’re going to have to rattle through them. What is your go-to definition of sustainability?


John: Pass. I haven’t got a short one for that. The Brundtland Commission which is to consume today only so much as to ensure tomorrow can. Is still pretty good.


Sam: That’ll do. How would you describe your sustainable super power? What is it you’re bringing to the good fight?


John: A really good sense of fun, a deep reverence for food and a great love of people.


Sam: I think I know how you’re going to answer this next question. Do you consider yourself to be an activist?


John: Absolutely. Activism is the rent price that you pay for living on the planet.


Sam: Have you always thought that?


John: Pretty much I think. My mom would say so. She said I was this troublesome in primary school.


Sam: Have you ever been a position where you couldn’t be?


John: I’ve often been in a position where I couldn’t be as activist as I might like to be. I know some fabulous people and I was reflecting with Gavin this morning on an experience I had in a government committee meeting where I felt that the principle that was being applied was deeply, ethically wrong. The others stood with me, he lost it as a vote but when I put it out, impassioned it out, others stood with me. You go, okay, I just didn’t win it today. I’ve got to come back and be better next time.


Sam: You said something that was deeply ethically wrong.


John: Yeah.


Sam: Where did those ethics come from?


John: Gosh. I think you get a lot of them from your mom. I know I get my sense of fairness from my mom. She’s still alive, she’s pretty smart. She knows that if she cut an apple, I’d want to have the biggest bit and my little brother get the smallest bit. She’d do the Solomon trick, she’d say, “You cut and he chooses.” Never seen the precision going into cutting an apple like that.


Sam: Do you think that people like coming through school getting that stuff?


John: You have your moments of despair about it. I have an absolutely 18 year daughter of whom I’m incredibly proud. She’s on every kind of activism there is. She is on so much more activism at 18 than I was that I feel very hopeful for the planet. Again, meeting Sandy on the weekend and looking at the film and the other film around indigenous housing and some of the young people coming through the programmes that were involved, I think there’s some pretty fabulous young people out there.


Sam: What’s your daughter going to do with that? There’s not many programmes like the one you teach where we’re actively teaching people or even allowing people to be activists.


John: She’s going off to Victoria University next year and I said, “Are you going to do politics?” She just looked at me, she said, “You don’t think I get enough politics at home?” She’s got a love of languages, she’s travelled, she’s Maori so she’s going to do some Maori studies and some law and some languages. Whatever she does and learn she’ll make a big difference with her life, I can just see it.


Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? A pretty stunning view I must say.


John: It is a stunning view. I leave it in the dark, can you believe it? I belt out of bed before 5, and I’m out of here by half past to go all the way to Henderson to do the job there. Lovely team of people that I work with. I think that most people want a job worth doing, they want a team worth belonging to and they want leadership worth following. Two out of three ain’t bad.


Sam: That’s quite a commute.


John: It is.


Sam: Ferry and then train?


John: It’s currently either car or bicycle to the ferry. Then ferry and then most of the time it’s taking the little campaign car that we have because it’s got to live in a concrete bunker. At that time of the morning I can be in my office by 7 which gives me clear, early part of the day. When the new trains come and we’ve got a route that doesn’t go by Kazakhstan that might be an option.


Sam: What challenges are you looking forward to in the next couple of years?


John: I’m really looking forward to the conference and that’s challenging on day by day basis. Got one of the young graduates managing that process. It’s just fantastic. A young woman that can take any pile of drivel that I put on the page and turn it into something that looks like a masterpiece, so that’s fabulous.


After the conference I’m planning to do a major piece of research in New Zealand on the behaviour of funding organisations and the processes and how this does or does not contribute to innovative and sustainable funding relationships. I’m planning on doing that piece of work for a few years. I’m just finishing a piece of work on the living wage movement, and also helping on a project looking at South Kaipara community economic development scheme which is featuring in the conference. That is all pretty good.


Sam: You’re a busy chap, especially with the dancing in the garden stuff?


John: Dancing in the garden is a great deal of fun, yeah. They’re going to get a film maker there.  He just as to look at me in a certain way and I can’t help myself. I become a total show-off really. The garden is very important to me. I have a great garden here, it’s still looking fabulous but we’re entering drought now so it’ll all be dead in a fortnight. Organic food, really, really important to me. Food’s really important. Sharing it with people.


Sam: Two more questions unless I get distracted.


John: Sure.


Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur by tomorrow morning what would it be?


John: My standard reply to that is that every wish that would ever have would come true but I don’t think that’s going to wear in this occasion. Gosh. Would we have to fix the climate. That would have to be the top. The two problems we’re going to deal with are inequality and the climate. If we get those things stopped the rest of it’s a piece of cake.


Sam: What’s the smallest thing that we could do that would have the biggest impact on either or both of those?


John: I think if we all really looked at inequality in our society and started having a real discussion about it, and saying, “No, I don’t believe these Kiwis really want to have a third of children living in poverty.” That’s been able to perpetuate because we have not been having the conversation and we have to have that conversation really, really robustly.


Sam: Last question before we get in trouble with the Buddhists, do you have any advice for our listeners?


John: Live long, it’ll damn your enemies.


Sam: Great. You’re listening to Sustainable Lens on Talk Access Radio 105.4 FM. This show was recorded on the 26th of January, 2017. Our guest was John Stansfield



Altogether community

Marie Laufiso

The key is relationships. Everyone has a story about everyone else – you have to get past those stories and talk real.

Marie Laufiso is a Dunedin-born Samoan who has contributed a lifetime of community support and activism. She tells us how her family upbringing in Brockville brought a sense of obligation and a “from the margins” thinking that brings both challenges and innovation to the wider city.

Talking points

Poverty and lack of access to resources is inter-generational – it builds up.

My mother said, Brockville is our village – we take care of the needs of the village – its people and its place.

We watched Cowboy and Indian movies – rooting for the Indians of course.

We felt a strong sense of place but also a dislocation, of being born in someone else’s country.

The key is relationships. Everyone has a story about everyone else – you have to get past those stories and talk real.

We have to figure out ways to invest in our own children

Dunedin as a community means being serious about supporting whanau. It means not imposing what we think are the best solutions without having first had meaningful conversations

Key volunteers are tired, worried about the future – they need our support.

When I think of a compassionate economy, I think about people who actually care. A society that is just and peaceful.

(Sustainability) A society that takes care of all of our people, then the people would take care of the planet.

(Superpower) Listening

(Success) My family together supporting my brother through his illness.

(Activist) Yes. A community worker.

(Motivation) Obligation. I said I would, so I’d better.

Challenges) Being really clear about legacy we’re leaving children.

(Advice) Keep it real.

The show was first broadcast on the 11th August 2016.


An activist agenda

Ben Shneiderman by  John Consoli University Maryland

If someone is not speaking up then we should be worried

Ben Shneiderman has had a huge impact on everything we do. A father of the field of Human Computer Interaction, Ben is Professor for Computer Science at the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Ben pioneered the highlighted textual link in 1983, and it became part of Hyperties, a precursor to the web. Ben is the author of Software Psychology: Human Factors in Computer and Information Systems (1980) and Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (5th ed., 2010, with C. Plaisant) and Leonardo’s Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies (MIT Press), won the IEEE Award for Distinguished Literary Contribution in 2004.

What you probably didn’t know is that Ben has strong views about the role of activism within Human Computer Interaction, “we have”, he says “an enormous opportunity to make a difference…the very nature of Human Computer Interaction is an activist agenda”.

We should expect as mature adults and professionals to be engaged in making a better world

If someone is not speaking up then we should be worried

This conversation was recorded after we spoke at a panel on activism at CHI 2013 “CHI at the barricades: an activist agenda?“. Ben highlights some challenges for us to continue to go beyond the technical, and to build sciences around social processes:

We need to shift towards human centred sets of metrics that looks at the number of megacontribs, terracollabs, and petathank-yous.

How do we create a language and metric of the human experience of technology that goes beyond bits and bytes and looks at human questions of trust, empathy, responsibility and privacy?

The problems we face …require technical solutions to be informed by a sensitivity to the social

Thinking with new language is the way we transform ourselves.

How can we enable marginalised individuals and communities to have a voice?

How can we build in leadership structures?

Changing the language we use and the way we engage with people could make a difference