“We’re here to create the community we want to live in”. That was the message of the Transition Town open evening, from both Pippa Coom of the Grey Lynn 2030 group and Maya Nova from the Devonport Transition Town. Both saw the role of a Transition Town group as translating their concerns into positive action rather than just talking about issues such as peak oil or climate change.
Pippa Coom came to share some of the successes of Grey Lynn 2030, which comes out of the Transition Town movement and is an umbrella organisation supporting and promoting local focus groups.
Ultimately, these are groups run by volunteers and so their emergence and continuation depends on the individuals who can donate time and energy to the cause that they are interested in. Here are some of the main areas of focus that were talked about and the different experiences that the Devonport and Grey Lynn communities have had.
The initial stage of the Devonport fruit-tree planting scheme was successful, as Cameron Smith, member of the Devonport Transition Town, told the meeting. “We got funding from the local board and residents so we had the buy-in of council and homeowners. We had to have trees with survivability and so needed to be careful about the types of trees we offered and the method of planting.”
Initially, the Transition Town sent out flyers to guage interest and Nova went to tree planting workshops and contacted nurseries as to the best varieties to use. Once the logistics and ordering were sorted out, the planting went ahead.
Margaret Smith, who had the first of the fruit trees planted outside her house and was at the meeting, said the braeburn and plum trees were both blossoming and she has had a lot of interest from her neighbours. In fact, there are at least 20 people waiting to have fruit trees planted on their berms next year.
By contrast, the Grey Lynn 2030 group received $2000 from their Community Board for a similar tree-planting scheme, but found that the soil was contaminated, so haven’t yet been able to do anything further, although some residents have just gone ahead and planted their own trees.
Charlotte Smith, the voluntary co-ordinator of the Devonport Community Garden, told the meeting that the main problem facing the garden is that no one knows about it. She spoke of the need for more people and more skills. The garden started out as a teaching garden and has now become a mixture of communal space and allotments. There are beehives and worm farms as well as a very popular kids’ zone. Smith talked of their plans for the building there to be renovated to provide a kitchen and workshop area where school groups could take part in garden-to-table projects or the ladies from the local croquet club could pass on their preserving skills.
The Devonport Local Board has recently given the Transition Town permission to use some vacant land on Fraser Road for a further development of the Community Garden concept. Nova talked of the possibilities this could involve, from gardens, chickens and bees to a composting toilet.
Running in parallel to this, there was a suggestion that there could be a weekend garden tour of Devonport, where interested parties could see local sustainable gardens in action.
In Grey Lynn, the community garden is in Wilton Road, behind the Gypsy Tea Rooms and it is visible to passers-by, thereby attracting more notice. The local cafes send their coffee grounds there to be composted and such is the popularity, there is even a composting club.
Farmers’ Market / Trading Table
While there is not currently a Farmers’ Market in Devonport, the concept of the Trading Table proved very successful at the last Devonport Harvest Fair. In Grey Lynn, it costs $30 to become a Friend of the Market, which includes free access to the trading table (otherwise it is $3 a time), where you can trade, for example, a bag of your surplus beans for someone else’s tomatoes.
There was considerable interest in showing films about environmental issues and the like in Devonport as the Grey Lynn group already does on a monthly basis. So, a Devonport Green Screen focus group was set up then and there and has already started working towards their first screening. Watch this space (or a slightly adjacent one).
Recently, a power audit was done for the Devonport Community House, with the result that it could draw up a menu of energy saving measures it would like to implement. A lot of these are currently out of its financial reach, but as Cameron Smith pointed out, you tend to manage what you can measure, so some financial savings have been made just through increased awareness. The Powerdown project was largely organised by Transition Town member, Phil Jones, who is studying Energy Management. Jones has recently left the area, highlighting the fact that such projects rely on the interests and skills of local, interested members of our community. Anyone?
Such a project is on the wish list for the Grey Lynn 2030 group, but they are similarly waiting for the people with these skills.
A group with a huge presence in Grey Lynn is the Waste Away group, which concentrates on environmentally responsible and practical methods of waste disposal. You can see them in action every week at the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Markets (at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510 Richmond Road) and at any other events in Grey Lynn. They have hosted the Wanaka Wastebusters and they hold regular e-waste days.
So, a very informative and practical meeting was had by all! There are already so many great things happening in Devonport, and it was good to reflect on what has been achieved and see where we can go.
– Rachel McDonnell