Golden Bay is ‘ab­so­lutely not’ sus­tain­able


Golden Bay is ‘‘ab­so­lutely not’’ sus­tain­able and would need a lot of work if it were to brand it­self as that, an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor says.

Per­ma­cul­ture ex­pert Robina McCurdy says Golden Bay ap­pears to be so, but when you look be­low the sur­face— it’s not sus­tain­able at all.

‘‘Sus­tain­abil­ity to me is about look­ing for­ward to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and pos­ing the ques­tion: ‘am I leav­ing a legacy for seven gen­er­a­tions hence, or am I de­stroy­ing the eco­nomic and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment, and am I go­ing to leave a mess they have to re­pair?’’’

McCurdy has been study­ing sus­tain­abil­ity from a broad vi­sion­ary per­spec­tive, par­tic­u­larly in Golden Bay, for decades.

She is a co-founder and res­i­dent of Tui Com­mu­nity in Wainui Bay, and founder of the In­sti­tute for Earth­care Education Aotearoa, and the year-long vo­ca­tional train­ing in sus­tain­able land-use and de­sign, PLANET Or­ganic.

For three decades, McCurdy has been in­volved in per­ma­cul­ture de­sign and teach­ing, or­ganic grow­ing, and the de­vel­op­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal education re­sources, like the fivepart doc­u­men­tary se­ries, Lo­cal­is­ing Food.

She said Golden Bay peo­ple had to ‘‘fend for them­selves’’, so there was a strong so­cial and eco­nomic net­work, but food, em­ploy­ment and trans­port were both very vul­ner­a­ble.

‘‘I would not say Golden Bay is a sus­tain­able re­gion of mod­el­ling in New Zealand. There has been se­ri­ous at­tempts to pull to­gether var­i­ous el­e­ments un­der the sus­tain­abil­ity ban­ner, but be­cause there hasn’t been a paid co­or­di­na­tor, the links are loose.’’

In Golden Bay, McCurdy said only about 5 per cent of food is pro­duced in the area and the rest is trucked over the Takaka hill.

How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple live ru­rally and have gar­dens and or­chards that feed them year-round, so there was strong self-re­liance among the peo­ple.

Em­ploy­ment was usu­ally only sus­tain­able in Golden Bay if peo­ple were in­no­va­tive and en­tre­pre­neur­ial.

‘‘There’s the dairy fac­tory, dairy farms, a few or­chards and the mussel in­dus­try, but in terms of sus­tain­ing it­self, you need to be en­tre­pre­neur­ial, in­no­va­tive and you need to set up your own busi­ness, like eco-tourism, home-stays and stuff like that.’’

She said most young peo­ple who want to work in their de­sired pro­fes­sions don’t come back to Golden Bay.

‘‘If you talk to most peo­ple here, many have three jobs to make a liv­ing and most have some kind of part-time work to sup­port their pas­sion.’’

Trans­port was an­other area that made the bay very vul­ner­a­ble, she said.

‘‘There’s no pub­lic trans­port, apart from one bus that goes over the hill, so that means you are de­pen­dent on petrol, which means you are de­pen­dent on the global oil in­dus­try, and that’s very vul­ner­a­ble.

So­lu­tions in­clude buses dur­ing the morn­ing and evening so peo­ple could get to work, and a barge bring­ing sup­plies into the bay.

In terms of elec­tric­ity, most peo­ple are de­pen­dent on the grid, which also made it very vul­ner­a­ble, she said.

‘‘But there’s also a lot of peo­ple us­ing al­ter­na­tive forms of en­ergy, so be­tween wind, mi­cro-hy­dro and so­lar, there’s the to­tal po­ten­tial for Golden Bay to be sus­tain­able with­out be­ing de­pen­dant on the grid.’’

Golden Bay’s en­vi­ron­ment of oceans, rivers and for­est is sus­tain­able in it­self, be­cause peo­ple came to re­treat, ex­plore, re­cover, or to be in­spired. But the pop­u­la­tion was largely de­pen­dent on that in the sum­mer months, which was un­sus­tain­able.

She said Golden Bay was very so­cially and cul­tur­ally sus­tain­able—and this is what peo­ple thrive on.

To re­ally be­come sus­tain­able, the bay needs paid co-or­di­na­tors who fo­cus on em­ploy­ment ad­vice, food-re­lated busi­ness start-ups, train­ings, work­shops and food re­silience.

The co­or­di­na­tor would also look at sus­tain­able sys­tems for food and fi­bre, and at value-added prod­ucts and mar­ket­ing a Golden Bay la­bel.

‘‘That could then be a bind­ing force that might raise the pro­file of sus­tain­abil­ity in a truth­ful way.’’


En­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor Robina McCurdy says Golden Bay is not as sus­tain­able as peo­ple think.

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