There are lots of quotes about change being the only constant in life, but sometimes I wonder how good we actually are at believing that — at embracing change.

I'm just back from a couple of days touring the Waikato with my Horizons Regional Council colleagues, looking at how the Waikato Regional Council is facing up to their challenges, many of which are common with ours.

It got me thinking about the tension between the inevitability of change, our recognition that change is necessary and how we seem to rally against it, all at once. This seems particularly true in the nexus of environmental impact and farming.

We saw some amazing examples of true leadership in farming, of people making fundamental changes to their farming practice to address soil and water pressures.


But how do we take those insights and share them? There seems to be significant pockets of conservatism and perhaps even stubbornness around making change.

If we truly believe change is inevitable, what is holding us back from making necessary changes? Is it fear of the unknown? Is it not liking being told what to do? Is it being trapped in systems that incentivise the status quo?

The longer I look at the challenges around intensive agriculture and impacts on water quality, the more puzzled I become.

We already have solutions. There already are people making changes and retaining their livelihoods. So many innovations are happening, but why are they not becoming the new way to do things?

As I learn, fishhooks abound with tricky contracts creating obligations, or lending conditions that emphasis production over net profit, or other vicious circles tying people in knots.

But there are innovators stepping around these roadblocks.

I was impressed to see state-owned Pamu (formerly Landcorp) developing its own new niche products to support profitable dairying with lower stocking rates. They have a sheep milk gelato, a single-source milk powder, and even a deer milk product that are exporting directly.

It's not just farming that is facing looming change.


Many of the ways we have always done things require review. And even that phrase "the way we have always done things" is misleading - it usually indicates something that's been happening for as little as one or two generations.

The housing sector in New Zealand is rife with issues we recognise as unacceptable, yet we seem to accept.

Our homes are, more likely than not, poorly ventilated, poorly insulated and poorly heated, which results in dampness and mould — our houses make our children sick.

We have numerous reports that show this, but we continue with poor standards and poor practices, even though the cost-benefit of doing housing differently has been proven

New Zealand is embarking on a review of our "three waters" systems.

How do we effectively and efficiently manage the supply of our drinking water, disposal of our wastewater, and management of our stormwater. This is not going to be simple and I hope we look at this issues in a long term way.


There is a risk of false economies if we don't calculate the full costs of the decisions we make around our infrastructure — whether it's the quality of the pipes at home or the city-scale plumbing we require. The challenge is finding ways to share the cost or spread the cost over time.

At a small scale, individual entrepreneurs are trying a new way to supplement their income by setting up a Patreon account. Patreon is an online platform that allows you to contribute small amounts via a monthly subscription fee to support others' creations.

I've just signed up to support two of my favs I'm mentioned before, The Happy Cow Company and Emily Writes.

The hope I have is that the changes I'm lucky enough to see really are the start of something big and it's only a matter of time before the momentum grows.

I just hope we're not leaving it too late.

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.