My boys' two weeks off school have been jam-packed.

Five days with their grandparents on the farm, catching (and releasing) eels, hunting possums and helping move the cows.

Then time at the amazing Eco School, spending more time in nature, getting muddy and exploring, meeting newborn piglets, and more.

Finally, the week has ended with friends staying with us with their sons, so we've had even more time outside.


It's been joyous and energetic and noisy and tiring and really worth it – and that's just me! This school holidays I managed to book three days off work with my boys and enjoyed having a holiday at home, a staycation they call it.

Slow starts ... pancakes for breakfast, bike rides – a little bit of slow down, combined with fantastic catch ups with dear friends.

It's a perfect combination of what's important to me – quality time reconnecting with friends, children choosing their own play outside, having people help with the dishes, and a teeny bit of sleeping in.

This reflection builds on the recent session I hosted with Statistics NZ in Whanganui, which was the last pitstop for the consultation team touring New Zealand looking at wellbeing indicators.

The aim is to move on from gross domestic product (GDP) as the primary, crude and misleading measure of societal success. There will be more opportunities to engage before this work is done and dusted though, so you haven't missed out.

Last night, Minister for Justice Andrew Little was in Whanganui leading a conversation on how we can create a safer and more effective justice system.

This was a topic that came up in our wellbeing hui – how do we protect and value the rights of all people in our society and invest to nurture them prior to things going wrong in their lives.

We understand this is a better investment than attempting to pick up the pieces after damage has been done.

One group that's already showing the way in building people and communities back up is Whanganui's supreme winners at this year's Trustpower Community Awards, the Matipo Community Development Charitable Trust.

I attended their annual meeting last weekend and was impressed with how far they've come on the smell of an oily rag.

Their partnership in education and training has built on their community garden and they're looking to expand.

They are building a truly cohesive community in what's been known as a tough part of town. There is beauty growing and being generously shared – the beauty of healthy food, friendship and fresh starts.

It got me thinking about how we stay focused on the future when we're facing challenges. How do we make sure we're looking at the strategic benefits that will flow, and not letting the setbacks get in the way?

It's natural to look at how to fix situations and it's hard to unpack the underlying causes in the midst of crisis.

Freshwater quality and penal reform are perhaps unrelated at first glance, except in the level of challenge inherent in achieving improvement in their status.

These are two areas where we pretty much all know we need to make long-term changes and look beyond immediate cost or inconvenience or fear of change required.

If we keep our heads down and bat each challenge away as a one-off, we may never make the (sometimes scary) step change we need to invest in real solutions that will last – the sort of solutions that are led by communities that know what is needed.

Organisations like Matipo are helping people who have spent time in jail – helping them grow through education and find their purpose.

They are also planting up their stream banks because they care about the environment and where they live. They're actually doing both right now.

We can learn so much from Matipo and the people leading this grassroots community revival.

I'm so pleased they've been recognised for their work to date and look forward to seeing their next achievements. Let's follow their lead.

*Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.