Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 19 October 2017

Keeping our place great

Last week, nearly 150 Far North residents crowded into the Theatre Bar at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri. There were more people than chairs so several sat on the floor. They were there to listen to geologist, Dr Bruce Hayward, explain how tectonic plates, ancient lava flows and eons of erosion had created the hills, valleys, amazing rock formations and wonderful coastline we are all familiar with in Northland.

The Far North is a unique environment. We have the oldest rocks in the North Island at Whangaroa. We have the largest and hottest geothermal field in northern New Zealand; the most pure silica sand at Parengarenga; the whitest halloysite clay (used in making bone china) in the world at Matauri Bay; and the best examples of fluted basalt (possibly in the world) at Lake Manuwai and at Wairere Boulders.

Our backyard is a perfect geology classroom. That is why GNS Science and Far North REAP have been using it to teach science to year seven and eight children from 10 Far North schools. Visiting these incredible natural features during two-week GEO Camps brings science to life for our young people. I have been a proud supporter of the camps since this innovative teaching approach began, because I believe we need to do anything we can to inspire young minds and encourage a passion for learning.

Hopefully, some will feel inspired to pursue a career in science, maybe even geology. Dr Hayward's talk last week was organised by the Council's District Plan Review Team. It had a dual purpose: one was to promote Dr Hayward's new book about Northland's geology, Out of the Ocean, into the Fire. The other was to encourage Far North residents to get involved in the District Plan review process.

Too often, decisions about how we govern and use our land are left to others. The District Plan Review Team is determined to change that by making this vital task as compelling and accessible as possible. Dr Hayward's talk was one example of how the team is trying to make the subject come alive.

Another is the Let's Plan Together storymap. This website uses cutting-edge mapping technology - like Google Maps - to open up the planning process and allow anyone with an internet connection to contribute. It's a finalist in the upcoming 2017 New Zealand Spatial Excellence Awards and, in May, was runner-up in the GIS Project of the Year at the 2017 Association of Local Government Information Management Awards.

So why go to all this effort? The Far North is a wonderful and unique natural environment. We need to protect it, but we also need to use it to grow and prosper. Getting the balance right is not always easy, so we need all our communities to have their say. I encourage everyone to get involved in this. To get started and find out more, follow the District Plan link on the front page of the Council's website.



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