By Vanessa Crowe, Sustainable Communities Coordinator
Sunday provided a spectacularly sunny day for the Greener Neighbourhood groups to be revisited by the judges. Flo McNeill (previous participant and sustainability advocate), Anna Butterfield (Love Plant Life and Help Me Net business owner), Brenda Vale (ecological footprinting researcher and academic), Janet Holborow (Deputy Mayor and former Greener Neighbourhoods participant) and Guru, our mayor, came on a tour across the district to find out what the groups have been up to.
Gabes Gold Nuggets
First, we heading to Raumati Beach, to Ian and Monica’s house to meet up with the Gabes Gold Nuggets crew. Kate Foley, the team's leader gave an excellent summary of their work over the last ten months. After many potlucks and group get-togethers, including three Neighbours Day events, the group have got to know each other well, building friendships and a strong sense of community. Soon after the beginning of the programme many of the GGN members attended No8 Wire Week, where they collectively learnt about keeping chickens (of which there are now 10 in the street), making their own cleaning products, kombucha and compost, as well as bike repair, building with pallets, propagating herbs and cooking with leftovers.
Thanks to Mark Hammond Gabes Gold Nuggets soon had a logo which summarised their core values, a blog and a facebook page. Their blog details the highlights and numerous achievements including establishing a swap stall, a community beehive, a walking school bus, running beach clean-ups, participating in the Up-Lift bra project and the dental recycling programme and plastic free July (and August), zero waste workshops, developing veggie gardens, worm farms and not to mention kombucha and beer brewing.
Kate says the most challenging part of the programme was finding a suitable home for the community beehive. The easiest part was communicating via their facebook page, which has become an effective way to share resources, transport and generally looking out for each other - particularly after the November 14 earthquake.
From here we headed to Raumati South. The Greenown + group made the most of the warmth and sunshine setting up a lounge on Kelli’s berm with a couch and chairs centred around the groups “Hākari” sharing stall. Over tea, coffee and home baking the crew took turns to present stories and The Greenown Mile a report on their journey in form of a mock film review thanks to the group's creative producer Rachel Callinan. Kelli, Suzi, Rob and Steve told us about their journey. Highlights included building the Hākari Stall, a project that involved the creative efforts of younger team members, Steve and Roz’s children. The Hāraki has been popular within the group and the wider community - a place to give and take freely.
Other projects have included researching and investigating the potentials of a community beehive - now designated for the Jeep Road Community Orchard after Rob spent a few days meeting over 20 neighbours to get their consent. There is a lovely creative synergy in the group's approach where different aspirations link together. For example raising funds for the beehives has involved two garage sales which enabled group members to have a clear out and get rid of unwanted things, avoiding them going to landfill. The garage sales gave the group further visibility within the community and provided further opportunity to talk to people who dropped in on the day about Greener Neighbourhoods and the community beehive idea. Doing a clear out of unwanted things almost meant it was time to pull out old electronics.
When Steve’s ‘electronic’s graveyard’ surfaced, he decided to tackle the curly question of what to do with ewaste. He and Rob took up the challenge of turning this into a group project - encouraging others to gather together their unwanted electronics. After some research, they discovered that EarthLink in the Hutt provided some recycling options. Steve and Rob soon filled a car and headed off to EarthLink. This has also inspired them to think about how electronics can be repaired and repurposed which has lead them to explore the idea of a Repair Cafe.
The other major thing that the group has done is to have regular working bees in each other's gardens. They marveled at what could be achieved in a short amount of time, the kai and socialising afterwards was also a big appeal.
It was rather wonderful sitting in the sunshine in the outdoor lounge on Kelli's berm and hard to leave! But we had a schedule to stick to, so extracted ourselves feeling super inspired by the stories and mahi of these two groups. We headed to Waikanae Beach for a bite to eat before visiting the ‘Waikanae Be Green’ group on Rutherford Road.
Waikanae Be Green
At Chad and Zap’s house, the “Waikanae Be Green” team greeted us. Chad, looking the part wearing a green t-shirt talked about the group's work and the benefits that had come from getting to know each other. It all began when Chad hosted an ‘Over the Fence Cuppa’ for Neighbours Day in 2016. Monique said that living on Rutherford Drive, a long road heading into a rural area, rather than a cul de sac had made it challenging to build a sense of community, but the Greener Neighbourhoods programme provided that. Their Waikanae Be Green sign on the street also provides a point of connection and purpose. They both explained that their group has had a number of core members interested in environmental issues and then a wider group interested in building a community network for other reasons as well - simply to get to know one another, for Civil Defence and Community Support.
Waikanae Be Green members took up the opportunity to take part in the No8 Wire Workshops, with Chad holding the record for most workshops attended. They also made the most of Hannah Zwartz's Green Gardener services, enlisting her help to establish some community garden beds funded by an Ecostore soap fundraising scheme which they successfully applied to be part of. A core group have busily swapped seeds, advice, kombucha, plants, made Limoncello, participated in beach clean ups, hosted Civil Defence evenings and held garage sales. Larger achievements included fixing up and acquiring the use of a previous Greener Neighbourhood groups community mulcher, obtaining a Waste Minimisation Grant for members to buy worm farms or compost bins and Monique began publishing her blog ‘Mo’s Green Corner’, with stories of her own journey and Waikanae Be Green’s progress.
Our final stop off was in Ōtaki where we visited Maraea’s house to hear about the Pounamu Ōtaki group's progress. Pounamu Ōtaki is a whanau group with a kaupapa that involves whanaungatanga, mahi tahi, whakarite māra, whakatō kākano, whakatipu kai, kaitahi, kōrero Māori, waiata tahi and anything green. They have met regularly at one another’s whare's for mahi in the garden followed by kai and kōrero. The amount of progress that's come from this simple operating mode is impressive. Maraea showed us her elaborate ‘Quackaponics’ systems of filtering greywater which is channeled into a bath where the ducks bathe, then the water is pumped up into a ‘whirlpool’ filter adapted from a washing machine. Around the side of her house, she showed us how she, with the help of the Pounamu Ōtaki whanau, planted around a trench filled with rocks created to drain overflow water from her rainwater tank. Maraea explained she wanted an alternative to the standard plastic container that is installed in the ground, as part of her plastic-free lifestyle. At the back of her house, we admired the fruit trees, grape vines, an asparagus plot, an abundance of seedlings and prolific bean stalks. The garden beds are a hugel design - where a trench is dug and filled with logs and other compostable waste (including the contents of the freezer which was accidentally turned off!). These were being built when we first came to visit at the beginning of the programme and now are thriving garden beds.
When conversation naturally drifts onto other things, it's apparent that the Pounamu Ōtaki group embody a green lifestyle in an understated way. They are all now staunchly plastic free and told anecdotes of their experiences refusing plastic and also how to be prepared at the supermarket by bringing their own containers. Talk of plastic-free pursuits soon turns to sourcing food - milk comes from Hazel the cow across the road, and they have an ‘oral record’ of sites for food foraging within the Ōtaki area. Coming together to kōrero in te reo, is what they’ve always done they explained, but being part of the Greener Neighbourhood groups has bought the work, or mahi element to their get-togethers. In doing so they have made huge inroads. One significant achievement as part of Greener Neighbourhood’s programme was the successful funding to build a communal “whare heihei”, a chicken coop at Te Atawhai’s house and fencing for ducks at Maraea’s which will enable the whole group an option to drop off their food scraps for the ducks and chooks and then share in the eggs produced.
After a long day, the judge's mood was upbeat, inspired by seeing first hand the progress of each group. They are left with a difficult task of making some assessments of the groups and to decide who will receive the $2000 award - the criteria includes the biggest reduction in ecological footprint, smallest overall footprint, work done within households and within the community. The Awards event will take place on May 14th in the Council Chambers.