As a paid-up member of the Promote Whanganui Club (anyone can join - free membership), I do my fair share of talking up Whanganui to anyone who will listen, and sometimes even when they don't.
With Opera Week in full swing and Vintage Weekend on the horizon, Whanganui is in its prime season for showcasing its star attractions.
I'm keen for more people to discover how fantastic Whanganui is - it doesn't need to be a best-kept secret. My target would be Wellingtonians - both retired professionals and families who want a weekend away somewhere new and not too far to travel. Then, of course, the plan is for these people to fall in love with my home town and shift here, preferably buying my house ... a win-win outcome!
Wellington retirees might decide that Wellington-on-a-good-day isn't quite enough anymore after they discover Whanganui's better weather, quality cafes, incredible arts scene, the best little book shop in New Zealand, river walks and market. They will have funds to enjoy their retirement after they sell up in Wellington and buy something amazing here - plus a great place for grandchildren to visit.
For the families, there's a huge range of activities and adventures to be had - just running up and down in the Durie Hill Tower tunnel discovering echoes is a hit, rain or shine. Then I'm keen for these families to also sell up, pocket the capital gain from Wellington and buy in Whanganui, bringing their work-from-home jobs and small businesses with them.
An addition to Whanganui's positive reputation I'd like to see, reinforcing our growing strength in sustainability, is to go plastic-bag free. We could join Tasmania, plastic bag-free since November 2013, and Hawaii, going plastic bag-free this month. One of my new year's resolutions is to remember to take my reusable bags when I do the grocery shopping. I've got a reusable lightweight bag in my handbag for odd bits and pieces and they carry heaps more weight than a standard shopping bag, but I seem to often forget my grocery ones. An outright ban would help me remember!
Before the cynical among us question the practicality of a ban, our island neighbours have thought this through. The Tasmanian legislation still allows biodegradable bags, like those introduced at the river traders market in 2013, as well as resealable ziplock bags and plastic as part of packaging of bread and frozen foods. In Hawaii, supermarkets will still provide plastic bags for bulk bin items too.
Other places in New Zealand are investigating this including Dunedin, Kaikoura, Golden Bay and Grey Lynn. I can imagine a not-too-distant future where our children find it hard to believe we were so lazy to accept these bags in a zombie-like state when asked "do you want a bag?" And while some of us reuse our plastic bags or drop them at the recycling centre, Australian research shows that 75 per cent go straight to landfill after one use, simply carrying those groceries from the shop to the car to the house. If you want a laugh about society's challenge with plastic bags, search on YouTube for the ABC's Gruen Transfer and plastic bags. This Australian TV series takes a critical look at the advertising industry and in each episode they give advertising agencies a challenge, including selling the benefits of plastic bags. While it might make you laugh, I'm sure we can adapt to life without the tumbleweed of the 21st century.
Finally, back on my climate change bandwagon. I was impressed with Rosemary Penwarden's powerful piece in the Chronicle earlier this week where she wrote about aged care, inequality and climate change. It was published the same week more dross from Rodney Hide appeared in the NZ Herald. Hide demonstrated a lack of understanding of the difference between weather and climate when he wrote about the ship stuck in Antarctic ice. Climate change doesn't mean every day is warmer - in general terms it means a warming on average plus more weather extremes.
To finish, a Chinese proverb I came across that could apply to both plastic bags and climate change: "If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed."