Thanks to everyone who came out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to celebrate the Greener Neighbourhoods 2014/15 launch with us. We were lucky enough to have the use of St Peters hall in Paekakariki, so for many of our attendees it was a leisurely stroll straight from their gardens.
With about 40 people present, three of our four groups were represented – the Tilley Triangle and Ocean Square (both from Paekakariki), and our Raumati Beach crew. Neighbours from Toroa Road, Otaihanga, were at home recuperating from winter ailments and had spent the previous afternoon meeting for the first time.
We were also joined by the lovely folk from Ames Street who were ‘Kāpiti Coast’s Greenest Neighbourhood 2014’ and whose home turf we were gathering on, the legendary Geoff from Wellington Road (the gentle force behind Wellington Road’s Rat Pack and a key member of their Composting Club in 2012/13), and Council support staff – Hannah Zwartz, the Green Gardener, Simon Calcinai, the Waste Minimisation Officer, and Jake Roos, Senior Advisor on Climate Change and Energy.
Gathering at the leisurely pace one expects on a Sunday afternoon, large pots of tea and coffee kept thirst at bay. Children were settled in one corner with large sheets of paper and some crayons but quickly formed a mobile tribe exploring the garden and church grounds.
A round of introductions kicked things off as participants shared their names and hopes for the competition. There was a common desire to get to know their neighbours better and engage on a meaningful level. Heather from Gavin Rd highlighted the immediate benefits when she told the group she was hearing-impaired and not as able as she used to be. She knew she would need help from others in the case of a civil defence emergency, and wanted to know those people before then.
There was also a keen interest in exploring ways to live a more sustainable life and ideas for combining forces to do so. These included stream restoration, community land development, a beach clean, large scale composting, gardening bees and workshops to learn more about fruit tree pruning.
Past participants in the Greenest Neighbourhood competition confirmed these hopes as they discussed the on-going effect of the competition on their lives. Vicky Noon from Ames Street spoke about how their neighbourhood has changed and the ethos of the project lives on as they continue with their various projects, get-togethers and just generally being neighbours who know and help each other.
Simon Calcinai from Waimeha Lagoon said his neighbourhood was a different place since they took part. Group members recently gained permission for the first stage of a community orchard, drawing 90 local residents to the planting.
Councillor Diane Amundsen welcomed everyone on behalf of the Mayor, noting that 109 households have taken part in versions of the Greener Neighbourhood project since 2010.
“The emphasis on building community, increasing resilience and reducing environmental impact has proven to be a tried-and-true combination. Time and again, groups have surprised support staff with the ambition and impact of their projects. Stories of the on-going effects continue to filter back and are spreading beyond the district.”
Cr Amundsen summed up by saying, “Even the act of getting together to discuss taking part in the project means that your neighbourhoods will never be the same again – for some of you it will be the first time you have ever spoken to or even seen some of your neighbours and now you know each other’s’ name.”
And then it was time for a round of People Bingo. Armed with sheets bearing statements like ‘Carries a cloth bag in in their car or handbag’ and ‘Has a worm farm’, players circulated the room collecting a name for each statement until someone called “Bingo!”. Prizes were kindly supplied by LovePlantLife (open-pollinate seeds grown specifically for Kapiti Coast conditions) and the Mayor’s wine cupboard.
With the formalities over, participants were free to continue the conversations they’d started. The teapot was refreshed and a delicious afternoon tea provided by the Beach Rd Deli (so close they delivered it on foot). Thanks for a great spread, guys!
Congratulations to all our participants as they start out on this adventure in community. And thank you for being willing to step outside your comfort zone to explore ways of living more lightly on this planet we all share. We look forward to hearing from you (and will keep an eye out for your reusable Greener Neighbourhood bags!).