I just read Shamubeel Eaqub's now infamous book Growing Apart: Regional Prosperity in NZ.

I didn't seek it out, it was on the top of a pile of books at a friend's house; beneath it Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind - which some may think apt.

Anticipating a screenplay for a B-Grade horror film, I was disappointed.

This was no "Attack of the Backwater Brain-Eaters". The lead was no Haitian voodoo guru; no bumbling corpse was in sight. Comprised mostly of stats, and a few graphs, this was as far from a George Romero script as a book could be.


It will surprise his detractors to learn that, consistent throughout the book, Eaqub's concern is with alleviating the poverty that is resulting from growing inequality between New Zealand's regions. He speaks of a "holistic" approach to the solutions, and of collaboration between the many stakeholders as being the best way forward - while also acknowledging this is easy to say, less so to do.

Shutting down towns could possibly be inferred in one line ... maybe. And, perhaps, the introduction of "Zombies" to the discourse was just a ploy to get our attention. Well, that worked.

Whilst I don't agree with all of Eaqub's conclusions, I'm not arguing with his facts.

But really, most of us here didn't need an economist to tell us that we are poor - and getting poorer.

This whole debate, however, sees only through one side of the prism - conventional economics - and we know how this paradigm can fail us.

So, what does this have to do with conservation? Not a lot. Further down the stack of books though, Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change, by David Holgrem, provides a different, combined vision of our possible futures from economic, resource and climate based perspectives.

This is more like it! Natural disasters, drought, resource depletion, fossil fuel pollution, overpopulation, poisoned land, dead animals, eco-system collapse, extinction, food scarcity, industry failure, chaos, doom, more doom, and gloom ... enter the Zombies!

Holgrem, a sustainability innovator and co-originator of the permaculture concept, proposes "relocalisation" of economies and "ruralisation" among his numerous solutions to such global crises.

With its temperate climate, fertile soils, affordable housing, strong community networks, good existing infrastructure, and the space to grow, Whanganui is, by Holgrem's definition, very well-placed to adapt to imminent changes in climate and commerce.

If, as a region, we invest, and seek investment in, sustainable businesses and social enterprises, solutions-based community and cultural initiatives, environmental protection and green technologies, affordable tertiary education and innovation, we will be ensuring more than our own survival - we will flourish.

Whanganui has so much potential and we now have the opportunity to realise it; another three years of looming regional neglect from central government ensures that we will have to do it ourselves.

So, Zombies - now is the time to rise ... from the ground ... up!

Helen Marie O'Connell is a part-time zombie witch doctor, independent researcher and project co-ordinator currently based in Whanganui.