Ilka Nelson, Ocean Shores.
In the past week we’ve seen major headlines about the fate of the environment – the World Bank warning of a 4C temperature rise and Tim Flannery reporting an increased rate in species extinction. Regardless of your political-socio-economic slant, whether you live on the land or in a flat by the seaside, we’re in this together. A globally sick environment will impact on all aspects of society, economy and culture
The planning and zoning issues currently facing the shire are not unique to this bubble of paradise, from Perth in the west to Taranaki in the east, many communities are having to ask the same difficult questions: questions that are fuelled by a growing population, a thirst for development and an increasingly stressed environment
We’ve moved out of an era when we could answer these questions in isolation. While we still need to be responsive to local issues and experiences, we now also need to consider a bigger network of ecological, economic and social systems. Interestingly, the communities that are faring best are the ones that have harnessed this shift in thinking, in terms of opportunities.
For example, the recent debate over accepting multistorey development in heritage Mullumbimby is the same debate occurring in Perth: do we build up and change the character of our town or do we build out and develop more land – as the population swells this question will be revisited many times in the shire. Professor Richard Weller conducted a two-year research into the boomtown issue; his findings change the polarised debate into an opportunity for creatively re-organising our communities ‘to suit the challenges of the 21st Century’.
Across the Pacific Ocean, the Taranaki community recently signed an historic Biodiversity Accord. They approached their zoning issues as an opportunity to: share information between diverse interests; build partnerships between agencies, community groups and local people; and ‘establish a collaborative framework to better work together and identify opportunities for obtaining the best results from finite resources’. In the process, not only has Taranaki strengthened their community, they have actively future-proofed water sources and habitats for plants, animals and themselves!
At this time in history, a healthy future requires us to prioritise biodiversity and water systems over all other individual and collective interests. It is a big perspective shift for many and that’s understandable. If we see our situation in terms of systems thinking, the environmental crisis is an opportunity for strengthening our connection to each other and this beautiful part of the world!