Categories
communication local government

Nature’s tales

Neville Peat

Wake up each day and salute the sun if it’s out, appreciate the natural processes around you, We’re here for a short time on this beautiful planet and we’re here in a caretaker role.


Neville Peat is a writer and photographer, and a Dunedin City Councillor.

Talking points

I’ve always enjoyed conveying stories about our landscape, and issues of the day.

Growing up we weren’t really conscious of the wildlife on our doorstep.

You’re telling a story, trying to convey ideas.

It’s about finding an angle, describing what you see in as few words as possible, my most recent effort (in the ODT) described the Milford Track as “mountains of water”.

The environmental movement was continually banging its head up against applications for resource consent for this that and the next thing…so we set up an organisation that could carry the message of sustainability or doing things good for the environment through the Green Business Challenge, that became the Dunedin Environmental Business Network. The idea was to get alongside people in business.

This was a new way of working, we weren’t just banging on doors and writing submissions, we were working proactively to get our message across.

This led to the Otago Regional Council – I knew I could make a difference. We set up a Biodiversity Committee, the first in NZ, I was chair of that.

But in my nine years in the Regional Council, I can only think of two good examples of sustainable management of natural resources based on a scientific tool. (Tussock burning based on 3 tests: coverage density, dry weight matter and height). Here at last, I thought, we can actually measure whether this classic snow tussock grassland would actually be sustained. (Secondly, irrigation allocation in the Kakanui catchment).

The Regional Councils are primarily responsible for the sustainable management of natural resources, you would think a whole range of tools to help them, but really they haven’t. They continue to monitor decline in a whole lot of areas, without giving us a way forward, a tool, something we can grasp.

Shrinking baseline is such an important concept. It’s so easy for each generation to come along and say “that’s the normal” (not even new normal), “that’s how much quality we can expect out of this river, wetland or whatever” and not realise that it has shrunk in their parents’ time. With each generation you get a steady decline in quality, which can only be countered by action of some sort – and this is starting to require a behaviour change in people. And as we know…changing people’s behaviour…whether its giving up on driving to work or doing something to enhance the environment they live in, plant more food in the backyard, or whatever, that’s hard, the easiest way is just to do nothing, a laissez-faire attitude, just hope we can ride it out, “why should it be my responsibility?”

(Is there a formal way of considering future generations in decision making?) Only if you keep waking up in the morning thinking “what’s the definition of sustainability? – it does include “without compromising the needs of future generations”. If you wake up with that you get a clear sense of your role. You are here not as a user, but a caretaker. It’s up to you to do your best.

We are just here temporarily on a planet that is supremely beautiful.

Often you get a moment of inspiration, a moment where it all seems right, its almost a mystical effect.

It’s more effective to convey an idea than to say it…that’s what my work is all about conveying an appreciation of nature.

The Dunedin draft Environmental Strategy is setting the scene for future generations.

How do we relate to this planet – because we’ve only got one.

The Dunedin natural environment is unbelievably special.

(Success in last couple of years?) New edition of Wild Dunedin. Environment Strategy.

(Activist?) Not as much as I was. I’m still active. I’m working pretty hard really, but I’m not a foot soldier any more – I’m trying to be a bit more of a leader.

(Motivation?) Nature has to be given full expression, the moment we have conquered nature in any form we lose the plot. The mysteries and mystique of nature have to be retained. When my ancestors came here in the 1850s they saw nature as something to be conquered. Now five generations later, I’m saying let’s embrace nature for what it is and not as something to be beaten down.

(Challenges?) More writing.

(Miracle? or smallest thing that would make the biggest impact?) The stoat in the Orakanui ecosanctuary

(Advice for listeners?) Wake up each day and salute the sun if it’s out, appreciate the natural processes around you, We’re here for a short time on the planet and we’re here in a caretaker role.

Categories
democracy dunedin ecology local government

Environmental strategy

Jinty MacTavish

We need infrastructure and systems to support positive environmental outcomes.

Chair of the Dunedin City Council’s Community and Environment Committee, Councillor Jinty MacTavish on the draft environment strategy Te Ao Tūroa – The Natural World.
Good friend of the show, Councillor Jinty MacTavish is back to talk us though Dunedin’s draft environment strategy Te Ao Tūroa – The Natural World.

The draft strategy has three themes:

  • Theme 1: Treasuring the environment / Kaitiakitaka
  • Theme 2: Healthy natural environment / He ao tūroa, he ao hauora
  • Theme 3: Environment for the future / Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei
  • Consultation on the strategy is open until the end of August.

    Talking points

    Not having had an environment strategy has been a fraught thing for five years because it means that environmental concerns or issue have, I think, been inadequately considered as part of report development and subsequent Council decision.

    This is a starting point for conversations rather than a final document.

    Staff went back through the last 5 years of submissions, 11,000 submissions and pulled out the key themes people we telling us about the environment.

    (Mayor Dave Cull’s introduction – all part of the Dunedin Ecosystem) Yes, I don’t think we’re entirely there yet, that concept of humans as part of ecosystem isn’t quite reflected right the way through the document, but he intent is there.

    .

    Ecotourism is an activity that leverages environmental strength

    (11% of City protected, cf 33% nationally) Proportionately, we could be protecting more of our land. In terms of a gradation from natural environments to human dominated space, we’ve got a bit of work to do in thinking about projecting land for its natural value alone.

    When we started this strategy, we quickly realised that if we were just doing for Council’s influence in terms of land it owns, it would be pretty limited when we’re talking about the environment.

    I fought hard to get in here human connection with environment… there is challenge for us in helping people understand their role in the ecosystem when they are only seeing a very small part of it.

    The presence of the Otago Regional Council as an environmental regulator doesn’t mean that we ought not have people dedicated to getting outcomes on the ground in terms of this strategy. we’re hoping for feedback from the community on the types of roles that will be needed. The Economic Development Unit, for example, is populated with people who are charged with delivering on specific projects under the Economic Development Strategy.

    Working with different stakeholders, range of mechanisms and incentives…

    Whenever you are writing an environment strategy, it is tempting to think of the environment as something that it “out there, that we can put a fence around and as long as we’re protecting it from possums and not developing it then it’s fine”, but we all know that that’s not going to work, that we are part of this ecosystem and that we need to be adapting and changing the ways that we are operating if we are to ensure that our environment in the broadest sense has a future.

    Clearly our systems are not sustainable. We are too carbon intensive, we are destructive in that how we create our systems at present. We need to be starting to think about how we design our infrastructure and systems that support positive environmental outcomes rather than being just less bad.

    Unless we as a population really understand what it is to be part of an ecosystem, and understand and treasure and feel connected to the ecosystem of which we are a part, we’re simply not going to care about protecting it. You need that motivator, you need that connection, you need that physical connection.

    We should be designing infrastructure that enhances connection, not cutting off connection.

    I would love to hear from people what parts of the environment they don’t feel connected to, and what would facilitate that connection.

    The theme is about community connection, it’s not just about me caring.

    I think there is a growing sense of the collective

    We need infrastructure and systems to support positive environmental outcomes.

    We need to move beyond the minimalist mentality, the mentality that says we can only ever do less bad. Then we can start to think about setting some aspirational targets in terms of giving back to our environment.

    You can clearly have appropriate development, and you can have inappropriate development – and what this document is saying is that we want to set some pretty high standards for the type of development into the future to ensure that environmental concerns and aspirations are wrapped up in that development and taken into account at the front end. So that we don’t see the sort of development that erodes the life supporting capacity of our systems.

    We have to as aspirational with this document as we have been with all of the others.

    We have to be aspirational with our environmental goals, because when we get to conversations about trade-offs or synergy points, the environment strategy needs to be putting just as strong a stake in the ground as any of the other strategies.

    (Is it possible to tell the percentage of Council spend that will come under this strategy?) No, everything the Council does will be influenced by this strategy.

    Categories
    heritage local government

    Living heritage


    Dr Glen Hazelton is Dunedin’s Heritage Policy Planner. Glen argues that a buildings tell a story about a place that has a past, and that this gives a message about where that place might go in the future. While Dunedin’s European heritage might only be 160 years old, our settlers built in a classical style in a new country to impart a sense of permanence. Coming from a culture protecting their place, they over-engineered on purpose. This, combined with economic downturns, has left Dunedin with a huge stock of Victorian buildings. Glen stresses though, that the job is not just about the Victorian buildings, to become old, buildings have first to be young – and no-so-young. Heritage then, is about a living heritage, the fabric of the place that tells the story of the place. We ask if it is possible to build a new building with the intention of it becoming heritage.

    Shane’s number of the week: 1200. That’s how many Sperm Whales where believed to be in the area of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. How many of these were harmed or killed is just starting to come to light.

    Sam’s joined-up-thinking: This week saw the finals of the Otago Young Enterprise scheme. A highlight this year was the prevalence of corporate social responsibility in the fledgling businesses. Without being required to,many of the student businesses donated a sizable chunk of their profits to community organisations and charities. Sam judged the award for Excellence in Sustainable Business Practice, and was pleased to see one business in particular – Grow Girls from St Hilda’s – take a systems approach to sustainable business. They sold compost derived from waste materials – coffee grounds, chicken manure etc. Grow Girls also won the overall Otago excellence award.

    Categories
    dunedin energy local government power

    Neville Auton

    Neville Auton is Energy Manager at the Dunedin City Council.  Neville works an ‘internal consultant’ within the Council, helping managers of the various business units to identify energy savings.  He talks about the huge reduction in impacts already being realised and the potential for more savings without affecting services to the city’s citizens.

    Shane’s number of the week: 13.6.  The British honeybee population declined by 13.6% over the past winter, rising to a more severe 17.1% in the north-east of the country.  This is despite weather conditions that should have favoured the bees.  The cause appears to be a class of pesticides – the neonicotinoids.

    Sam’s joined up thinking: Sam argues that the chaotic card game Fluxx is a great introduction to sustainability (more>>).