Today, I was pruning some of the fruit trees in the Parihaka riparian food forest. Over the last eight years, we have planted several hundred fruit trees, berry bushes, natives and other support trees along the Waitotoroa. And 99% of the trees got through the massive flood over Waitangi weekend this year and held and stabilised the bank. The Waitotoroa catchment has had over 30 discharge permits from the dairy industry. We all know that Taranaki's rivers, creeks and wetlands are really struggling. For too long, the impacts of agriculture have meant that our kids have not been able to swim in many rivers around the mountain. We need to work together to bring about change to farming practices to ensure that all waterways are protected to the highest standard. 76% of indigenous freshwater fish species (39 of 51) are currently threatened with extinction or at risk of becoming threatened. Clean rivers ensure that we can turn this statistic around.
n order to stop catastrophic climate change, we need to urgently bring down our emissions. With almost 50% of Aotearoa's emissions coming from the agricultural industry, it is vital that we radically change our farming practices from intensive to extensive, from entropic to syntropic, from degenerative to regenerative. While the way we farm has had a significant negative impact on the environment, we can change the way we do things and start to sequester carbon, diversify production, reforest many parts of the region and ensure that the social, environmental and economic spheres start to align again.
We have been trialing various regenerative techniques at the Parihaka Community Garden and our small-scale market garden here in South Taranaki. Every week, we sell veggies at the local market on the coast.
I grew up in car-free family. We had bikes, trams every seven minutes and a train to every other major center every 30 minutes. Not having a car was easy, and normal. Now, in rural South Taranaki, we only have one bus a week, and even in urban New Plymouth there are no buses after 7pm, very limited services on Saturdays and nothing at all on Sundays.
We need urgent action to improve our public transport network. Public transport has numerous benefits: it connects people and communities, enables the poor the get around easier, drastically reduces our emissions and de-congests roads. While there have been some improvements in recent years such as the introduction of The Connector service linking Te Hāwera and New Plymouth, we need a lot more investment and support, particularly for rural South Taranaki. I am passionate about public transport and want to see a well-designed, frequent and affordable public transport network for our whole region.
Ultimately, the Taranaki Regional Council has failed to provide enough funding in their Long Term Plans for public transport.
[Photo - our family on the Southlink bus that connects Opunake with New Plymouth every Friday]
Kia ora koutou,
my name is Urs Signer. I have lived and worked in South Taranaki with my partner and our children since 2008. I seek your support to be elected to the Taranaki Regional Council to bring a voice to the decision-making table for the climate, our waterways and struggling provincial communities. Having worked for many years in the community for environmental and social justice, my top three priorities are generating a shift towards local regenerative agriculture, public transport and ensuring our kids can safely swim in every river across our region. For too long, the Council has just played catch-up when it comes to looking after the environment. Given the state of our planet, it is time for transformative change. In order to shift away from the dog-eat-dog mentality, we need grass-roots and collective solutions for a just, fair and regenerative future.