Strong women inspiring me

Half the year down and I’m feeling pretty stoked with the mix of challenges and opportunities I’m facing.

I’ve only got two weeks left before I take my first break from this column in nearly three years – this is column number 148, as part of the lead up to standing for Horizons regional council.

Not only do I have to stand down from this column, I have to stand down from my job at the awesome Ākina Foundation.  But no free pass from paying the rent while campaigning, so I’ve found work for Te Kaahui o Rauru, Ngaa Rauru’s governance entity, doing environmental management work, and am loving it.

This week was a highlight as I took part in the launch at Kai Iwi of Ngaa Rauru’s two-year project to rejuvenate seven waterways in the region.  We had the entertaining Marama Fox, co-leader of the Māori Party present, and she did some seriously straight talking about the importance of water.

I’ve written several times about the nonsense that is “wadeable”, saying “swimmable” makes more sense – Marama went further and said “drinkable”.  She reminded us that it wasn’t that long ago our waters were a primary food source. 

Marama also talked about the harm possible when attempting to redirect the path of rivers and warned that we shouldn’t forget or “the river will rise up and remind us who’s the boss”.

We need to work with nature, not against it, including being realistic about our increased flooding risks in Whanganui in light of accelerating climate change.

Facing facts of how the environment works and the changes happening seems like an obvious place to start.  So I was more than disappointed to read the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment issue strong criticism of the 2015 State of the Environment Report.

As one of the kuia at the marae asked, “why do they think they can pull the wool over our eyes?”  Setting out a clear position on the key environmental issues we’re facing to help focus on the most important is vital.  Allowing a sloppy report go out – our country’s first report under a new three-yearly requirement, reeks of a casual approach, or worse.

On a positive note, one of the things I like about being at a marae for meetings is the presence of children.  This week was no different.  I like seeing children listening quietly when elders speak, seeing little ones being allowed to run around and giggle without disrupting proceedings, school students being exposed to adult conversations about environmental challenges, and hearing first-hand what their uncles and aunties are doing about it.  I wish I’d thought to bring my boys along.

Last weekend I experienced having my own children part of a working event.  I attended New Zealand’s first “Women Who Get Shit Done” gathering with a group of about 100 women from around the country.  There were engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, poets, scientists, policy analysts, mums, students, café owners, and a splattering of CEOs – it was a shot in the arm to be connected to such inspiring people.

My boys were amongst 12 children who were incredibly well looked-after by the organisers, at no extra charge, so I and other parents could fully take part in the conference.  As soon as they woke up in the morning, my boys were demanding to get back to the “kids club” and have more fun.  And I loved not having to completely compartmentalise my life to be involved.

As Sheryl Sandberg of www.leanin.org says: “Bring your whole self to work.  I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time.  It’s is all professional and it is all personal.”