Anybody dealing with huge problems generally recognises one proven approach is to take small bites.

The massive challenge of global warming has enormous implications for food supply. Many nations, our neighbour across the Tasman included, could see their food production capacity badly affected by drought and temperature increases.

New Zealand may be more fortunate than many, but is already a leader in C02 emissions from dairy farming. The colonial obliteration of the kauri forests of the North to create pasture for the archetypal English farm is now haunting us as our farting cows become a carbon liability.

We had unique, subtropical kauri forests from Dargaville to Kaitaia. Farming the forests to harvest wood pigeon stuffed with miro berry for the international gourmet market would have proven more viable than dairying.

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Nurturing and harvesting the mullet driven from the upper reaches of our vast waterways by superphosphate would have added value. Patenting and producing the healing properties of the forest ecosystem would have paid large dividends.

It is an endless list. None were explored. None were developed. Dairying and pine forestry own the landscape in a moribund lack of political vision and leadership reaching back generations.

Hindsight can be a cheap shot. Take a deep breath, and another long, hard look.
The potential to rethink these landscapes and the people inhabiting them is still with us.

One example of a small bite into a huge problem is offered in the fertile Hokianga.

This region, once thick with native forests, has vast areas of rich growing soils, some rated by UNESCO as among the most balanced and nutrient-rich in the world.

Approximately 20,000 of the region's total 170,000 hectares is covered, protected is a better word, by manuka scrub.

Hokianga has long been considered "impoverished", with a Free Medical Area meeting the health needs of its 6000 people.

It holds great unrealised wealth. The scrub-covered land is largely free from superphosphate, and close to the standard needed for international organic registry. Much of it would already qualify. The potential for organic horticulture is vast.

The Mid North town of Kaikohe was once a railhead. It has a half-mile airstrip built to take Flying Fortress bombers by the Americans during the second world war. It could easily be adapted to take transport planes to fly organic Hokianga produce to the markets of Europe and the US.

Once, 20 timber ships per day would be loading Hokianga kauri being sent to build Sydney and Melbourne. We could see 20 planes a day loading the region's produce to feed international markets.

KiwiBuild could provide the housing to a burgeoning, fully-employed workforce, a real response to a real market.

Labour has put billions in the Provincial Growth Fund at the disposal of the regions.
This presents an opportunity to build and bed-in long-term, visionary change. A deep, rich and innovative investment in Hokianga organic horticulture could transform the region and show what can be done in other neglected regions.

Consider Wairarapa as an eco-sub-region. What does it need to survive and flourish? Given the climate, soils and water supply, virtually every part of the food chain could be produced in the environs of its townships.

Everyone who wants to be would be productive and employed. This model can be repeated across the nation.

Dairying could be supplemented with high-producing contributors to a widely varied food chain, which may or may not be organic. The per hectare return would likely better than the dairying model, and have value in the carbon cycle.

Gigantic geodesic glasshouses would dodge the frosts and create bio-systems capable of producing subtropical fruit, coffee, tea and nuts. The high-value manuka honey production alone would show hefty returns with value-added health and beauty products made and packaged in an absence of carbon footprint.

South Wairarapa's flax forests could be rediscovered and used, along with the valuable cannabis indica in high-value and attractive biodegradable fibre packaging.

If tourism is to be developed, let it be useful tourism.

Marlborough has an astounding example, where international visitors pay to walk the bush trails with kuia and kaumatua, discovering the healing properties of our native species.

For a few extra dollars they can make their leafy finds into balms and potions to soothe the skin and heal the body.

This is high-value, educative tourism, almost worth the carbon-costly jet ride needed to get here.

The potential is vast. The opportunities are amazing. The thinking needs to be fresh.

GEOFF VAUSE
Wellington