Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Rebuilding communities in catastrophe

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Jade Temepara, founder of Hand Over a Hundy and Te hUb, passes on her knowledge to children and families.
Jade Temepara, founder of Hand Over a Hundy and Te hUb, passes on her knowledge to children and families.

It wasn't that long ago that sharing skills, knowledge, tools and food with your neighbours was commonplace. Back then, rather than sending grandparents packing to a retirement village in the Bay of Plenty, they would be helping babysit, baking scones, sharing war stories over a glass of sherry and keeping an eye on the young ones to make sure they grew up with the right values.

But with an increasingly divided, urbanised population these days a great number of people are missing the key element that makes young people grow up to behave well: community.

When kids have kaumatua around to look up to and learn from, they are more likely to act according the values that wisdom brings about. This crucial passing of culture and knowledge suffered a major blow in Maori culture with urbanisation.

In most city suburbs although we might acknowledge the presence of our neighbours, we are unlikely to connect with them on a deeper level. It is a sad fact that every Kiwi man is expected to have his own full set of tools that are hardly ever used rather than borrow them from someone down the road.

This materialistic idea that we must have everything ourselves is incredibly inefficient. We end up buying cheap tools with plastic components that can't be fixed - when they inevitably break we just go and buy another one from Bunnings. If we all had just a handful of good quality tools that were shared it would be cheaper and there would be far less waste.

I count myself lucky that our next-door neighbour (a tradesman) is happy to lend us tools. I in turn drop him over a Tupperware box of fresh trevally or kingfish when I have had a good day spearing and he returns the box another day. We are mates that help each other out, rather than strangers and something about this makes me happy to be in Auckland City, because unfortunately such a situation is rare.

I am certainly not the only one who has realised the need for communities to be redeveloped. Incubators like The Distiller and The Kitchen have woven together a community situation and when you look at a place like Whaingaroa (Raglan), the sharing of resources and knowledge has enabled their community to achieve great things. They even have a reciprocal 'timebank' about work system that is focussed on having vibrant, interconnected communities.

A key knowledge area many people have lost (that communities have passed on for over 10,000 years) is growing food. Hand Over A Hundy are starting to re-connect communities by filling that knowledge gap and I am excited that they are coming to Auckland soon, where this is especially needed.

It is clear that online communities like Facebook are replacing people's intrinsic need to feel part of something, but I just don't think they cut the mustard by themselves. While they might be useful for sharing some knowledge, I believe our children learn best with their hands and minds together, following the footsteps of older people.

So go out and invite your neighbours over for a cup of tea (or a barbecue or a beer) offer them your leftover topsoil and surplus harvest and realise that if you have a problem, it is much easier to solve by working in a team.

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