New year chance to embrace nature

Trip up Whanganui River shows we have a way to go in restoring environment

Nicola Patrick





The omens are good — if you focus on the sunshine and quality beach time and ignore the Covid stats from our Aussie neighbours and feeling of impending doom. I’ve started the year with a swim in the ocean three days in a row, which is pretty unusual for this 49-year-old body. It seems like that could be a resolution to kickstart the year and connect with nature. But swimming is not without its risks and we’ve already experienced a horrific number of drownings this season. Maybe the resolution is to swim between the flags, especially on our West Coast beaches? We went up the Whanganui River by jetboat to the Bridge to Nowhere at the end of 2021 and it was stunning. The river was clear and the bush was lush and green. Then it rained and the Karitane yellow-brown entered the waterways, soil washing in, fed via side streams and waterfalls. Our tour guide had told us stories of the doomed road envisioned to run between Raetihi and Stratford. But the rain and the cleared landscape were incompatible with stability. I found it out myself, slip-sliding on the wet track back, having not chosen the most sensible shoes. Reminder to self, always pack your tramping boots when going up river. Back in town, the river looks glorious — at high tide, when the green sea is dominating. When I travel and cross other big rivers, they do not resemble ours. Many are clear. We have a way to go. My focus in 2022 is better understanding ways we can manage the land to deliver results for food, livelihoods and freshwater quality. Calm The Farm is a Toha initiative, part of the growing regenerative agriculture movement. It may be a wise ingredient in solutions for the future. Check them out at www. Calm The Farm is driven in part by the need for climate resilience. But it’s not radical change — it’s a return to old fashioned values of putting in what you take out, informed by science, and finding financial incentives through a new marketplace for environmental results. 2022 has to be the year we get serious about climate action. I hope this year’s Budget will bring the Government investments we need, particularly in public transport (more buses in the provinces please and reinstate regional passenger rail). While part of me is loving the warm dry start to the year, record highs have consequences. So, like our approach of keeping Covid at bay (hopefully, for a bit longer) until our young people are vaccinated, let’s use the time we have wisely to slow the runaway train of climate change. * Nicola Patrick is a mum of two boys; a Horizons councillor; leads Thrive Whanganui, a social enterprise hub; is a Green Party member and has a science degree.