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.