Day 4: Grassroots

22 Jan, 2013
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2013-01-21 13.06.57

After experiencing the best of Waikato hospitality at Sue Moroney’s, we reached Rotorua and the fantastic community food gardens at Hannahs Bay, where the ethos is take what you need, give what you can, a reflection of Labour’s values if there was any. The gardens and native forest areas nearby are planted mostly by school kids, who come to claim a sense of ownership over the kahikatea they planted, or the potato they harvest.

Denise, who was our guide for the day, emphasised that the garden goals were not just environmental, but social too, just as the Waiwhakareke project in Hamilton was. These projects are a way of finding a sense of identity in the environment. Here at Hannahs Bay, the Rotorua multi-cultural society had planted an orchard of fruit trees and tied different flags to them, reflecting the various nationalities reflected in the New Zealand landscape.

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Seeing the sheer amount of passion and hard work that goes into these projects is a very heartening experience, and the community spirit that is out there is amazing. These people give so much time and effort into things which benefit everyone, and they are by-and-large unrecognised for their efforts. They are working from the ground up to make our society a better place.

However, time and time again, the story has been the same, that while grassroots work is hugely important, it has not been supported by the different authorities, at the council and at the national level. Even when these authorities do show some inkling of support, it is often stunted by the inefficiencies of bureaucracy.

Denise said that often a plan that is successful in one area is transplanted straight into another, without recognition of local factors and influences. A community garden plan in Auckland may not work so well in smaller cities for example.

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In the end, for progress to be made, it has to come from both directions. We all have to support grassroots volunteering, but then we need an intelligent community focussed government to back that up. We need a Labour Government.

Finally, thanks to Kieran Gainsford for finding us a good swimming spot, putting on a barbecue, and for sheltering us for the night. Tomorrow: New Plymouth (after a beast of a drive across the heartland).

By Luke Hiscox

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