Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Opinion: Eco Design for Waitati

Eco Design for Waitati – Power to the People?

Community interest in making a start on the serious work of building
energy security for the future is growing. Perhaps the three keys to
building a sustainable community in Waitati are Water Supply, Food
Security and Energy. Actions have been happening around the first two
key issues, and increasingly we are witnessing a willingness to engage
with the energy issue as well. All three, along with a host of other
associated issues are essential to building resilience and strength in
our community. Of course, nothing is possible without an engaged and
enthusiastic community and the range and breadth of activity within
Waitati (and the greater Blueskin area) is evidence of healthy
community engagement. One example is 'Blueskin Baywatch', a group
interested in promoting appropriate landscape use. Some of its members
are currently liasing with Otago University planning students,
directed by Janet Stephenson on a 400-level assignment, 'Building a
Resilient Community'.

For these students, Waitati is a 'living space' with the human and
material potential to confront Climate Change and Peak Oil creatively.
The students are looking at how we in Waitati can reduce our energy
consumption, produce energy ourselves, lower our carbon emissions,
adapt to climate change and generally become more self-reliant. Over
the next month they will work in groups to identify key issues, and
develop an integrated strategy for implementation in as comprehensive
a manner as possible. They don't have long, but they do have access to
maps, predictions, data and time to construct different visions of
where Waitati might be in 10 years' time, and ideas on ways that we
can put the vision into action.

The students will present the outcome of their assignment at Waitati
Hall at a meeting in early October. (Date to be advised.)

Waitati is unique

Waitati has a long history of trying out alternatives and starting
initiatives for sustainability and environmental awareness. Remember
Mushroom magazine?

Keeping up the tradition, in 1990 a recycling area was set up next to
the skip for glass, aluminium, batteries, etc. A 10-day permaculture
course at Teschemakers in 1992, organised by then Waitati resident
Peter Fuller, evolved into the Environmental Education Trust.
Subsequently, introductory courses to permaculture and aspects of it,
such as earth building and appropriate technology, chooks & worms and
trees for the future, were organised. The Environment Centre in
Dunedin got off the ground with the help of another local resident –
Kyle Mewburn.

Since the amalgamation of Silverpeaks County Council with the DCC,
things have become more difficult: our voice in council has been
diminished and the DCC has not recognised the importance of resilient
and strong local communities. For more than 10 years, for example, we
have been negotiating with the DCC for a good local water scheme.
While the 'Big Pipe' may (eventually) deliver fluoridated water to our
houses instead of filtered clean local water, which most of us desire,
community efforts have succeeded in pushing rainwater harvesting well
up onto the DCC agenda. Both are still active issues.

This being Waitati, sewage has been an ongoing issue. Most locals have
had to learn how to dispose of their own wastewater and take
responsibility for it. A lot of us started with bucket toilets and
most of us have now progressed to either composting loos or septic
tanks. Local initiatives have evolved a system for aeration and
oxidisation that filters wastewater through recycled materials. You
probably have an eco-designer or architect living next door, in fact.
Being aware of our waste makes us much more inclined to try to live
within our means.

Interest in things alternative has not abated – and action on building
resilience into our community has become more urgent, as we are
confronted with increased flooding and higher fuel costs or challenges
related to climate change and peak oil. In 2006 there was a panel
discussion on wind power at the Waitati Hall and also a talk by Sue
Kedgley on food sovereignty in the context of climate change and peak
oil. Earlier in 2007, the documentary 'The Power of Community: How
Cuba Survived Peak Oil' was shown at the hall and in June Jeanette
Fitzsimmons visited Waitati as part of her Climate Defence Tour. And
after the successful Edible Garden Tour and workshops, there are more
planned.

by Wendy Harrex and Leonie Rousselot

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From blueskin.co.nz and 'Blueskin News' published by Blueskin Media:
voluntary/non-profit community publishers in Blueskin Bay (Seacliff,
Warrington, Evansdale, Waitati, Doctors Point), Dunedin, New Zealand.
All our material is "copyleft" and may be freely re-edited and
republished. If you want to credit the source it's "blueskin.co.nz".

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