Dump­ing old ways re­sisted fre­quently

Change in­evitable but we avoid em­brac­ing the new

Whanganui Chronicle - - Opinion - Nicola Pa­trick THE GLASS HALF FULL

There are lots of quotes about change be­ing the only con­stant in life, but some­times I won­der how good we ac­tu­ally are at be­liev­ing that — at em­brac­ing change.

I’m just back from a cou­ple of days tour­ing the Waikato with my Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil col­leagues, look­ing at how the Waikato Re­gional Coun­cil is fac­ing up to its chal­lenges, many of which are com­mon with ours.

It got me think­ing about the ten­sion be­tween the in­evitabil­ity of change, our recog­ni­tion that change is nec­es­sary and how we seem to rally against it, all at once. This seems par­tic­u­larly true in the nexus of en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and farm­ing.

We saw some amaz­ing ex­am­ples of true lead­er­ship in farm­ing, of peo­ple mak­ing fun­da­men­tal changes to their farm­ing prac­tice to ad­dress soil and wa­ter pres­sures.

But how do we take those in­sights and share them? There seems to be sig­nif­i­cant pock­ets of con­ser­vatism and per­haps even stub­born­ness around mak­ing change.

If we truly be­lieve change is in­evitable, what is hold­ing us back from mak­ing nec­es­sary changes? Is it fear of the un­known? Is it not lik­ing be­ing told what to do? Is it be­ing trapped in sys­tems that in­cen­tivise the sta­tus quo?

The longer I look at the chal­lenges around in­ten­sive agri­cul­ture and im­pacts on wa­ter qual­ity, the more puz­zled I be­come.

We al­ready have so­lu­tions. There al­ready are peo­ple mak­ing

changes and re­tain­ing their liveli­hoods. So many in­no­va­tions are hap­pen­ing, but why are they not be­com­ing the new way to do things?

As I learn, fish­hooks abound with tricky con­tracts cre­at­ing obli­ga­tions, or lend­ing con­di­tions that em­pha­sis pro­duc­tion over net profit, or other vi­cious cir­cles ty­ing peo­ple in knots.

But there are in­no­va­tors step­ping around th­ese road­blocks.

I was im­pressed to see sta­te­owned Pamu (formerly Land­corp) de­vel­op­ing its own new niche prod­ucts to sup­port prof­itable dairy­ing with lower stock­ing rates. They have a sheep milk gelato, a sin­gle-source milk pow­der, and even a deer milk prod­uct, that they are ex­port­ing di­rectly.

It’s not just farm­ing that is fac­ing loom­ing change.

Many of the ways we have al­ways done things re­quire re­view. And even that phrase “the way we have al­ways done things” is mis­lead­ing — it usu­ally in­di­cates some­thing that’s been hap­pen­ing for as lit­tle as one or two gen­er­a­tions.

The hous­ing sec­tor in New Zealand is rife with is­sues we recog­nise as unac­cept­able, yet we seem to ac­cept.

Our homes are, more likely than not, poorly ven­ti­lated, poorly in­su­lated and poorly heated, which re­sults in damp­ness and mould — our houses make our chil­dren sick.

We have nu­mer­ous re­ports that show this, but we con­tinue with poor stan­dards and poor prac­tices, even though the cost-ben­e­fit of do­ing hous­ing dif­fer­ently has been proven.

New Zealand is em­bark­ing on a re­view of our “three wa­ters” sys­tems.

How do we ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently man­age the sup­ply of our drink­ing wa­ter, dis­posal of our waste­water, and man­age­ment of our stormwa­ter? This is not go­ing to be sim­ple and I hope we look at this is­sues in a long-term way.

There is a risk of false economies if we don’t cal­cu­late the full costs of the de­ci­sions we make around our in­fra­struc­ture — whether it’s the qual­ity of the pipes at home or the city-scale plumb­ing we re­quire. The chal­lenge is find­ing ways to share the cost or spread the cost over time.

At a small scale, in­di­vid­ual en­trepreneurs are try­ing a new way to sup­ple­ment their in­come by set­ting up a Pa­treon ac­count. Pa­treon is an on­line plat­form that al­lows you to con­trib­ute small amounts via a monthly sub­scrip­tion fee to sup­port oth­ers’ cre­ations.

I’ve just signed up to sup­port two of my favs I’ve men­tioned be­fore, The Happy Cow Com­pany and Emily Writes.

The hope I have is that the changes I’m lucky enough to see re­ally are the start of some­thing big and it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the mo­men­tum grows.

I just hope we’re not leav­ing it too late.

■ Nicola Pa­trick is a Hori­zons re­gional coun­cil­lor, works for Te Kahui o Rauru, and is part of a new so­cial en­ter­prise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a sci­ence de­gree and is a Green Party mem­ber.

"It’s not just farm­ing that is fac­ing loom­ing change. Many of the ways we have al­ways done things re­quire re­view."

A re­view is un­der way of New Zealand’s “three wa­ters” sys­tems — drink­ing wa­ter, waste­water and stormwa­ter.

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