Jonathon Porritt sees 'positive steps' in Tairawhiti

Global sustainability champion backs more renewable energy and infrastructure to lift our resilience.

Global sustainability champion backs more renewable energy and infrastructure to lift our resilience.

SUSTAINABLE FUTURE: Global sustainability leader Sir Jonathon Porritt spoke to an audience of more than 200 people on Saturday afternoon at Waikanae Surf Club about redefining our boundaries for the 21st century. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

GISBORNE is on the “cutting edge” towards a sustainable future, global sustainability leader Sir Jonathon Porritt told a packed audience on Saturday afternoon at Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club.

However, more investment is needed in renewable energy and infrastructure to make the region more resilient.

More than 200 people attended a talk on Economy, Ecology and Culture: Redefining Our Boundaries for the 21st Century, presented by the founder and director of Forum for the Future, a not-for-profit organisation that works with businesses and other organisations to accelerate sustainable change.

Sir Jonathon was in Gisborne for a meeting of Air New Zealand’s Sustainability Advisory Panel, which he chairs. It includes Gisborne’s Dame Anne Salmond.

A “revolutionary” piece of legislation making Te Urewera National Park a legal entity and the Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan (TEAP) were among the region’s positive steps, he said.

“What you are working on right now is pretty close to cutting edge,” Sir Jonathon said.

Much of his talk revolved around the concept of bioregions, the belief human activity should be largely constrained by ecological boundaries other than arbitrary political lines, and different models of progress.

“Re-defining cultural, social, geographical, ecological and economic boundaries, so we are capable of working together to create that better future.”

As in Te Urewera, it was about putting nature first.

“Economists have been one massive problem,” he said.

“By putting a monetary value on nature, we devalue precisely the foundation on which any wealth is based, namely the natural world.

“We have completely failed to find a way of generating economic growth on a socially-inclusive basis, so that it does not destroy the natural environment on which we depend.

“We have failed to meet the needs of people today, let alone tomorrow.”

De-carbonising the economy

This was evidenced by climate change, and the urgent need to de-carbonise the economy in the next 10 to 15 years.

But rather than dwell on the “dark and difficult stuff”, Sir Jonathon’s talk focused on positive change. Shifting from a linear to a circular economy was an example.

“Our linear economy is simple but amazingly stupid . . . mine it, make it, chuck it.

“Circular economies are about re-using, re-purposing and capturing value in stuff without throwing it away.”

In design and architecture, houses were being built so the materials could be re-used.

“We need to do things pro-actively that allow us to live in a more responsible, compassionate and resilient way.”

The TEAP included ideas to make the region more resilient.

He praised the push to add value to the logging industry and backed the push for improved infrastructure, especially internet access.

“That is a prerequisite of the future, a way to attract more talent to the region.”

Bioregions were also about distinctiveness.

“What makes it special to live in a particular place at a particular time.”

Centrality of Maori culture

He noted the centrality of Tairawhiti’s Maori culture.

“It is a culturally unique place, even in New Zealand. A place learning to celebrate its Maoridom in a new compelling way, rediscovering bicultural heritage and factoring it into whatever version economic development might be.”

An area to improve was in locally produced renewable energy. Although New Zealand had a lot of hydropower, regions like Gisborne needed as much solar, wind and other renewables as possible.

“Bioregions are about doing something cost-effective in your own region, which makes it more resilient and less vulnerable to changes.”

Tairawhiti’s potential was behind the memorandum of understanding signed between Air New Zealand and Activate Tairawhiti.

“We thought 'let’s go somewhere where there is huge potential ahead, an opportunity to build prosperity which might not happen otherwise'.”

Aviation industry and greenhouse gas emissions

The audience was no lapdog though, challenging Sir Jonathon in his role working with Air New Zealand, part of the growing aviation industry with a growing percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions.

There was a choice, he said. Either to not work with them and refuse to fly, or work with them to help improve their footprint.

Dame Anne Salmond asked about the next positive step to take and how to prioritise. Sir Jonathon said with only 10 to 15 years to de-carbonise the economy dramatically to avoid catastrophic climate change, they needed to make the market work for people.

For him it meant he had to be serious about working with wealth creators.

“My mission has been to work with big businesses to see what they can do in different ways.”

One example was with global company Unilever, which was making efforts to operate sustainably. He was “nervous” to recommend a route for others though.

“Either way, you better have a route to sustainability.”

GISBORNE is on the “cutting edge” towards a sustainable future, global sustainability leader Sir Jonathon Porritt told a packed audience on Saturday afternoon at Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club.

However, more investment is needed in renewable energy and infrastructure to make the region more resilient.

More than 200 people attended a talk on Economy, Ecology and Culture: Redefining Our Boundaries for the 21st Century, presented by the founder and director of Forum for the Future, a not-for-profit organisation that works with businesses and other organisations to accelerate sustainable change.

Sir Jonathon was in Gisborne for a meeting of Air New Zealand’s Sustainability Advisory Panel, which he chairs. It includes Gisborne’s Dame Anne Salmond.

A “revolutionary” piece of legislation making Te Urewera National Park a legal entity and the Tairawhiti Economic Action Plan (TEAP) were among the region’s positive steps, he said.

“What you are working on right now is pretty close to cutting edge,” Sir Jonathon said.

Much of his talk revolved around the concept of bioregions, the belief human activity should be largely constrained by ecological boundaries other than arbitrary political lines, and different models of progress.

“Re-defining cultural, social, geographical, ecological and economic boundaries, so we are capable of working together to create that better future.”

As in Te Urewera, it was about putting nature first.

“Economists have been one massive problem,” he said.

“By putting a monetary value on nature, we devalue precisely the foundation on which any wealth is based, namely the natural world.

“We have completely failed to find a way of generating economic growth on a socially-inclusive basis, so that it does not destroy the natural environment on which we depend.

“We have failed to meet the needs of people today, let alone tomorrow.”

De-carbonising the economy

This was evidenced by climate change, and the urgent need to de-carbonise the economy in the next 10 to 15 years.

But rather than dwell on the “dark and difficult stuff”, Sir Jonathon’s talk focused on positive change. Shifting from a linear to a circular economy was an example.

“Our linear economy is simple but amazingly stupid . . . mine it, make it, chuck it.

“Circular economies are about re-using, re-purposing and capturing value in stuff without throwing it away.”

In design and architecture, houses were being built so the materials could be re-used.

“We need to do things pro-actively that allow us to live in a more responsible, compassionate and resilient way.”

The TEAP included ideas to make the region more resilient.

He praised the push to add value to the logging industry and backed the push for improved infrastructure, especially internet access.

“That is a prerequisite of the future, a way to attract more talent to the region.”

Bioregions were also about distinctiveness.

“What makes it special to live in a particular place at a particular time.”

Centrality of Maori culture

He noted the centrality of Tairawhiti’s Maori culture.

“It is a culturally unique place, even in New Zealand. A place learning to celebrate its Maoridom in a new compelling way, rediscovering bicultural heritage and factoring it into whatever version economic development might be.”

An area to improve was in locally produced renewable energy. Although New Zealand had a lot of hydropower, regions like Gisborne needed as much solar, wind and other renewables as possible.

“Bioregions are about doing something cost-effective in your own region, which makes it more resilient and less vulnerable to changes.”

Tairawhiti’s potential was behind the memorandum of understanding signed between Air New Zealand and Activate Tairawhiti.

“We thought 'let’s go somewhere where there is huge potential ahead, an opportunity to build prosperity which might not happen otherwise'.”

Aviation industry and greenhouse gas emissions

The audience was no lapdog though, challenging Sir Jonathon in his role working with Air New Zealand, part of the growing aviation industry with a growing percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions.

There was a choice, he said. Either to not work with them and refuse to fly, or work with them to help improve their footprint.

Dame Anne Salmond asked about the next positive step to take and how to prioritise. Sir Jonathon said with only 10 to 15 years to de-carbonise the economy dramatically to avoid catastrophic climate change, they needed to make the market work for people.

For him it meant he had to be serious about working with wealth creators.

“My mission has been to work with big businesses to see what they can do in different ways.”

One example was with global company Unilever, which was making efforts to operate sustainably. He was “nervous” to recommend a route for others though.

“Either way, you better have a route to sustainability.”

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winston moreton - 1 month ago
Wonder what Sir Jonathon thinks about the triple trailer logging trucks hammering through the City every seven minutes when there is an empty rail line alongside.

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