Thursday, 28 July 2011

filling the gaps

We all know why we loved Lyttelton's Center before the earthquake: the buildings were slightly down-at heel, but well-loved, full of character, quirky, colourful and all different from each other, a mixture of different ages, styles and materials.

From the first earthquake in September till now the center of town seemed on a slow downward slide of destruction. But I also feel we have reached the very bottom and are on our way up. Keep on reading...

Since September, building after building succumbed to increasing damage, which worsened in February and with all the aftershocks, and led to the demise and complete collapse of many of them. We mourned by attaching stitched hearts to everyone in Lyttelton and decorating the fences around the buildings with hearts, messages and colurful buntings.
The next phase were trucks, diggers, cranes, and the medieval wrecking ball, finishing off the job, and ' tidying up' the sites by removing every last brick and plank of the past, leaving behind clinically scrubbed sites, neatly filled with fine gravel and levelled off, leaving behind a scar in the fabric of the town, a ' black hole' with no asssocciation of what was there before or what the future will bring. In this phase the decorated fences were shifted and moved, all that was left was grey metal and dust.

The next phase involved a lot of 'cloak-and-dagger-antics': brave people scaled the cordoned fences at night and erected memorials: white wooden crosses with the date of the earthquake appeared on all the sites one morning, leaving some people uneasy with their connotation of death. When they were gone a mysterious structure of a small black, fabric clad house structure appeared on the site of the HarbourLight Theatre. One person I talked to said that it glowed at night! This has been replaced with three beautiful totem-like posts, spelling out in nautical flag-language a line of a poem by James K. Baxter, to coincide with NZ poetry day, built and painted by Trent Hiles.

Last week for me was the turning point, the first step up out of this deep valley! 'Gap-Filler' ( had come to town and with two dozen people the old 'Ground Delicatessen' site has been transformed. Seats and tables were constructed on site from wooden pallets, a rough-ish petanque course was laid down, eq bricks were re-used as as stepping stones to the stage (!), rocks from a stone-wall form the edge of a plant bed. There was a bbq with Trent Hiles (one of the shifters and movers) at the helm, there were tins with home baking, and most important of all people: to cart, rake, dig, haul, sand, carry, laugh, talk and eat together. It was great being there and talking about the future: about weekly events that could happen there, children's activities, talks, exercise classes, concerts, gardening, crafts activities,- whatever we dream up!

The Lyttelton Petanque Club Launch
Sunday 31 July, 12-3pm

Live music, poetry and pentanque
Bring a plate of food, some drinks to share and a potted plant.

Also last week the Eq- townplanners presented their plans how Lyttelton could look in the future, based on ideas presented by the public in the last few months. Besides other things the plans suggested a garden on top of the library with views towards the sea, a space for the Lyttelton Art Collective and an open, green gathering space in the middle of Lyttelton.

written by Bettina Evans

Sunday, 24 July 2011


This community development project – looking at creating food security within the Harbour Basin by means of a co-operative model continues to buzz me big time!
What abundance is cascading in as the creative minds pool their imaginings for the project. I am engrossed with the vision aspect of the whole project, but I am also mindful of the finer detail.
Let me explain more…
It is great wisdom I believe to look to nature to see how she does things – she has multiple solutions on many levels for particular situations. So to achieve food security, food production needs to be on both a larger scale and on the micro scale and everywhere in between!

I am thinking, “How will I, personally – my household, at the micro level, contribute to food security?” I hesitate to call myself a gardener, just as I would hesitate to call myself an artist or a musician because entrenched beliefs held deep in my body say you can only be called these things when you are an expert. I am in the process of debunking these limiting beliefs! And besides I digress. I am a gardener!

My garden is getting more and more productive. I am playing with possibilities as to how I can add to local food production. Maybe I can link to OOOOBY or create something similar and co-ordinate the sharing/distribution of my produce – even small amounts.

Winter is an ideal time to get lots tidied up in the garden to increase this production I dream of. I like to use what I have to hand. The earthquakes, devastating as they are, do have some up sides! A small retaining concrete block wall on my property failed. It is now propped up, but the people who did the propping up took off all the capping blocks that were on the wall and stacked them up along the path. Well, I have found a great use for them. One garden bed now has edges. Another little step in making my garden more productive.
The baths that were perched up by the retaining wall have been brought down to the house level and I am now dreaming this year of a huge crop of strawberries at my door.

I am told that my house (concrete block) will be re-clad. I have already started to talk about using those blocks – strengthened with rebar and concrete (something the previous one didn’t have) to terrace the top part of my property so I can access fruit trees and other potentials on small parcels of flat land. I am planning on getting a cutting from the community garden’s thornless blackberry to cover part of the new wall. Maybe too I can give the hens a holiday every now and again in a hillside terrace version of a chicken tractor.

written by Margaret Jefferies, chair of Project Lyttelton

Friday, 22 July 2011

bags not

Earthquakes don't only crack open the earth they also have the ability to crack open our hearts and minds. A lot of wonderful and heart warming things have happened in Christchurch and Lyttelton in response to the earthquake.

One area that has pulled the short straw though has been the environment: every day hundreds of trucks rumble into Lyttelton and disgorge building rubble straight into the water of our harbour; hundreds of old buildings are being destroyed, in the process releasing asbestos, lead paint particles and other chemicals into the air. Every one of the major earthquakes/aftershocks we experienced were over in leass than a minute, but the debris created by the destruction of large parts of the city equals the amount of rubbish that Christchurch usually produces in 20 years.

This makes depressing reading, but we can always come up with positive ideas to counteract this, even if small.
While a lot of the shops, including the supermarket, are still closed on London Street , now might be the time to re-ignite an idea that has been floating around for years: Plastic-bag- free Lyttelton.

A lot has been done overseas to tackle plastic bags:
• Plastic bags are not available in Germany any more unless they are fully biodegradable.
• Ireland and Taiwan both reduced plastic bag usage by more than 90% through a small levy.

There are also a few places in New Zealand that have made steps in this direction:
• Collingwood in Golden Bay is NZ's first plastic-bag free town. Zero Waste funding was gained from Tasman Council for an educational programme including cloth bag painting in all of the Golden Bay schools. The first 1000 bags were handed out to every car entering Collingwood. Following that, surprise visits from the 'Good Green Fairy" rewarded shoppers using their own shopping containers with wonderful donated prizes.
• Waitakere City Council is the first council in NZ whose goal it is to be plastic bag free. Their website gives tips for both customers and retailers, as it is very important to get businesses onboard. Check out
• Plastic Bag free Kaikoura launched 'Fantastic No Plastic!' with a logo, designed by a local High School student, printed on recyclable bags. A colloboration between council and local businesses meant that 10,000 reusable printed bags were purchased and distributed free to each household and to each primary and high school student at presentations held at the schools. The remainder of the bags are being sold to the community through local businesses at a price of $1.50 each.
• Waikouaiti in Coastal Otago has been busy with the same ideas.

In 2008 Project Lyttelton did a survey at the Farmers Market re. Plastic bag free Lyttelton and over 129 of 165 people asked thought reduction of plastic bags was very important and that they would be happy to pay around $2 for a non-plastic bag if available.
A group of women around Project Lyttelton have sewn dozens of cloth bags in the last few years, mainly used to give away as welcome bags to new Lyttelton residents.

So how can we go forward and turn Lyttelton into another plastic bag free town?

written by Bettina Evans

Friday, 15 July 2011

relocalising economies.

I often feel grateful for the good life my family has living in Lyttelton.
The rich web of active local economies that exist here mean that we as a four person family can live on a single income comfortably.
We have a quality of life that we wouldn't manage in other places because these human-scaled economies maintain a strong social life here and build healthy, mutually supportive neighbourhoods.
I was reminded of this yesterday.

I spent my day based at home and around this town with my two children as we often do.
We engaged in the myriad of tasks which maintain our household economy, as most of us do on any particular day. 
You know most of this list: cook, build, administer healthcare, mend, resolve conflict, grow food, comfort, preserve, make medicine and body products, feed and care for livestock...the list is long.
Although we strive to maintain our household as a unit of production rather than a unit of consumption, none of this counts as part of the "Economy." It's worth however, is obvious and indisputable.

in the morning we picked up firewood from the community garden and took it to a family with a newborn, a request I happened upon on freecycle. Both time and wood was gifted.
Elsewhere in Lyttelton yesterday, the Community House prepared dinner for an armload of people, volunteers organised events, ran the Information Centre, the volunteer fire brigade trained, people took food to their neighbours and others gave food to the community foodbank. These people all took part in the local gift economy.
Gifting is still part of what we do here.

Later in the day as the sun came out the girls and I walked to Cass Bay and along the way foraged some parsley. Foraging could perhaps be a classed as an economy in itself.
You too might contribute to this foraging economy by hunting, fishing, upcycling, and rescuing mislaid treasures from rubbish skips.

That evening we used Timebank to find someone to be with our girls while we went out. The Timebank is embedded into this community's culture and is a network of people who trade services using time credits rather than cash as the currency.
Other less formal elements of a healthy bartering economy are when we trade or swap goods, share seedlings and simply when we return favours to our friends.

A pot-luck dinner preceded the meeting I went out for. Pot-lucks are a brilliant way that Kiwis "do" collective economies, as are consumer co-ops, community land trusts and any other innovative way we figure out how to pool resources. Here in Lyttelton a group called "The Harbour Pool" is innovating new ways in which we can pool and share financial assets without involving crippling interest. This will provide a model for further groups to set up and keep money circulating and benefiting families in the Harbour.

Lastly a thread strengthening this web of localised economies are the business cooperatives that Project Lyttelton is currently investigating.  Community-owned cooperatives are primarily created to serve the members and therefore, benefit a broad sweep of the people living in that particular community rather than a comparatively few investors who may live far away.

As we go about our lives we can be unaware of all these different human-scaled economies that we take part in daily and how these positively affect the quality of our lives. These local economies is what keep people alive when they lose their job or their business; it is these local economies that shone through the chaos of late February here in Lyttelton. Naming and valuing all these local economies helps transform our understanding of wealth and reminds us that we are in fact receiving all the time. Antidotes to a sense of scarcity cultivate empowerment in our lives and lift our spirits.

written by Jacinda Gilligan, also at

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

putting the "community" into the garden

always blessed with a stunning view whatever the weather.

Our community garden has been a source of inspiration, connection, and purpose for me.
We meet together every Wednesday for some digging in the dirt and then we share a meal together. These days it has been more of sharing the meal than the actual gardening and I am just fine with that – for now.
salad greens from the garden - thank goodness for the chickweed right now.

What we share is so treasured that it is the one day that I work my entire schedule around to make sure that I can be there. We share food, stories, lives, hopes, dreams and disappointments and all in the most incredibly open and supporting manner and we focus on ‘possiblity’ instead of things that are not right – that in and of itself makes a huge difference in the tone of our group.
We don’t complain or talk badly of people and new people who come into the group understand that pretty much right away.
We don’t tell them that; they just get it from how things are.
We think of ourselves as ‘chosen’ whanau – not the families we were born into but rather the one we have chosen to be part of as that just feels right.
a range of ages mixing and sharing stories.

We have a core group who have been coming for the last three years – Jacinda and her daughters Ruby and Sky and I all started coming just about the same time.
That was just over 3 years ago.
Jacinda is a great gardener and so she guides us in many things.
She also inspires me to come with an open heart.

knowledge passed down to the children.

I greatly value my relationship with her. For a bit of time she was the coordinator (completely unpaid) for our collection of gardeners but when she moved across the bay, she gave up this role. We discussed a few ideas about someone else taking that role on, but I talked everybody into trying a really flat approach of having no appointed coordinator at all. I really love the way in which we each take up the leadership mantle when we feel strongly about something.
We have tried it this way for a year or so and we find  it works pretty well.
chickens integrated into the garden system, scratching up, fertilising and giving us eggs.

I know that we miss things and truthfully our seed sowing this year has been horrible but I also know that when we get our heads back into this, we will be off again. We thought that this Wednesday we should actually focus on either getting seeds sown or planning for the spring sowing – it turns out that we have all pretty much forgotten about sowing.

welcoming all who arrive and pleased to have wee ones in the garden with us.
Today is garden day and I am looking forward to being together. A few of us have been away and so today gives us an opportunity to catch our breaths, breath in together and enjoy being together – silently or noisily however that works out. 
We might garden a lot and we might not and for me, that is all ok.

enjoying the seasonal fruits as they last

written by Sarah Van Der Burch

Thursday, 7 July 2011

the list

I read an interesting piece recently which I'd like to write about. It has a connection to our situation in Earthquake Country as it relates to managing or preparing for the stresses and strains that life brings, in so far as one can prepare for these things.
Dr Roger Walsh is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, and has written about and researched issues around mental health, and health generally for many years. In a piece he has written for the journal American Psuchologist, he points out how 8 simple lifestyle choices can have a profound effect on health, mental and otherwise. His article reviews the research into these issues and makes some telling points.

Looking at the list of lifestyle choices, you would think that its largely a matter of common sense and whats the big deal? Yet Dr Walsh states that only 10% of health professionals recommend these activities to their patients and thats because they themselves do some or all of them. Here are the 8.


He goes on to say that the benefits of healthy forms of the above are grossly underestimated by health professionals and in the culture at large. These benefits have an impact on a host of conditions and ailments. Using indicators such as depression, prevention of illness, quality of life, and an extended life span, the research shows what an impact these 8 lifestyle practices could have on the health system.and on peoples lives. There is evidence that they have a positive effect on prostate cancer, reversing some heart disease, and can be as effective as medication and psychotherapy in managing depression. A further advantage is that they encourage people to take more control over their own health. Yet, it seems this kind of approach to health is largely ignored by the majority of health professionals.

We who have been through recent earthquakes are perhaps more acutely aware of the kinds of consequences that such crises produce; fear and anxiety, depression, mental health symptoms and even early death, especially in older people.All this is understandable and we are all subject to one or other of these kinds of conditions. It seems to me that quite apart from natural disasters, it makes sense to consider these lifestyle options as a means of managing life itself. Then as crises come and go through life, we would be better prepared for the ups and downs.

Written by guest writer, John Cardwell

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

out of the chaos

Test Garden Harvest

Out of the midst of chaos, destruction and a certain flatness of spirit wrought by the earthquakes, leaps a flame that is igniting a number of us. The flame is ready to spread like wildfire all around the community.

The potential isolation of this Lyttelton Harbour community highlighted by road and tunnel closures at the hands of the earthquake, is catalyzing our understanding and experience of what communities world wide will face as the present trends of climate change and peak oil play out.
We have an insight of what isolation can mean for a community. Currently it is the earth that is doing this to us. Later, as it will be for many communities world wide, as we move along the downward slope of Hubbert’s peak oil graph, it will be the lack of cheap fuel that will isolate us.

Oil is present in everything we eat! It’s in the form of fertiliser, fuel for farm machinery and in the transportation of food to our dinner plate.
I have been looking at the idea of food security for some time – at how we might address this issue in our community and the community of the Lyttelton Harbour Basin.
Now because of our increased awareness of our vulnerability we are ready to take some action.

A form of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an answer. A CSA adapted to our particular needs that links all levels of food production from farms, to community gardens, to home gardens, to planted public spaces. Our production needs to be local and organic for our community to survive any isolation and to start to thrive.

This CSA will run as a co-operative. As the co-operative gains momentum and the number of stakeholders increases, the community business could expand into other services as well. Basically the community will be creating wealth for itself. (Remember wealth is derived from the meaning ‘well being’). Profits will be reinvested into this community. The community sector with this entrepreneurial arm will become significant for the economic vibrancy of this area. Our culture is shifting from ’I’ solutions to ‘we’ solutions; thinking more collectively.

Well, with the agreement of the Project Lyttelton Board I completed a weighty funding application to the Community Development Scheme to make such a dream possible.

Our application was successful!

Now we are at the beginning of a whole new adventure.

This Sunday (10 July) all those I have already shared the idea with and who are excited by the project are meeting to broaden and deepen the vision.

Written by Margaret Jefferies, chair of Project Lyttelton.