These notes are from a “Restoring a Kind Climate” workshop held on the evening of 27 June 2019 at the Christchurch City Council building.
The purpose of the workshop was to provide community input into the Climate Smart Strategy review 2019, in particular to suggest practical pathways for achieving climate change mitigation goals and targets for the city. The notes are for one of the 8 topics discussed that evening.
Before we began identifying direct actions that groups could take to assist restoration efforts we had a conservation about what was important to us as a group:
Firstly, the naming of Christchurch as a “National Park city” was discussed. It was recognized that Christchurch has unusual features due to its city boundaries. The city has boundaries halfway up the Waimakariri river, where rare birds live, and the Avon-Heathcote estuary contains very unique wildlife. Conversation occurred about “criteria” of being a National Park City- what legislation and enforcement should be put in place, what restoration and protection should be put in place, and how can a National Park City encourage behaviour changes. We also discussed how forests/natural areas are important for mental and physical health, which a National Park City could provide for. The pros and cons of eco-tourism in the city were discussed, and how hybrid planning can intertwine nature and people.
This concept led on to the idea of “ecological literacy” and how we can improve people’s understanding of how ecosystems work. We discussed connecting people to nature, and how equitable community engagement is required to foster this connection. The formation of sanctuaries where people can directly connect to nature, such as a predator free reserve around the Lyttleton Harbour Head or the Avon red zone. This will lead to “halo effects”- e.g. birds flying out of sanctuaries and around Christchurch, increasing our connection to nature. There was also conversation about how we need to change people’s minds about what nature ‘looks like’- how can we move away from “permaculture” and the idea that order is important- e.g. lawn mowing. Lawns have lots of diversity if we let them have it- we can even have native plant lawns! Ecological literacy will also help people connect restoration to emission reduction.
Native vs Exotic plants were also considered. Natives provide a sense of place and identity, however exotics are also a part of our urban ecosystems now. Exotics tend to provide a short term high level carbon sequestration but also fire risk, whereas natives have longer term sequestration effects. Both are important to consider during restoration, and we can use exotics as tools to help improve native species growth.
We then talked about how to go about restoration. We discussed how current restoration practices are not necessarily the best- lots of spraying and absolute destruction. We also had a conversation about rewilding vs restoration- should we just let nature do its thing? Restoration needs to be meaningful – it has to be connected, not fragmented, so species can move between them. It also has to provide ecosystem and social function- we cannot ignore the human aspect of restoration. Finally, framing restoration as a climate change mitigation practice, and changing restoration practices to allow adaptation to climate changes are both important.
The above conversation lead to the following actions being identified:
Strategically placed centres for restoration, that are big enough to support populations and are connected to other areas. This connection could be via river corridors, but we also would need wildlife bridges/tunnels where there is a significant barrier (e.g. a very busy road) between sites. Turning lawn berms into planted areas could also help improve connectivity.
Changing Restoration Practices
There is currently a large carbon footprint in restoration- using chemical sprays, plastic and people travelling long distances to attend restoration activities. We need to work with nature- use less energy to manage nature by having less order and control. This ties to education/ecological literacy “messy restoration is not bad restoration”.
Framing Restoration as climate change action
Restoration is not framed as climate change practices currently, but they are. This can empower people- they are doing something, encourages systems thinking (back to ecological literacy) and allows us to see actions as part of the big picture. Could we calculate the carbon sequestration of each park/reserve?
Safeguarding against antisocial behaviour
Sadly, a lot of restoration efforts are harmed by anti-social behaviour. We discussed surveillance (and issues around surveillance), and how we enforcement is important. Enforcement should be more restorative and less punishing – we need to find out how/where anti-social behaviour stems from so we can incorporate all people into positive restoration practices. Including signage and information- e.g. not “don’t walk your dog” but “why you shouldn’t walk your dog” with humour incorporated – people are more likely to respond positively if the sign is funny.
Creating a sense of belonging and responsibility
This ties in to safeguarding against antisocial behaviour- how can we encourage people to care about their spaces and feel like they are a part of them? We discussed that it is important to connect with schools and early childhood centres, and how secondary schools could really take ownership. Fostering community connections to their local environments is essential. Specific actions to improve this include increasing funding to the understaffed and under-resourced enviroschools and funding and leading through learning initiatives. Following up on these initiatives is important, and incorporating art and lighting to create a space that people enjoy being in is important.
Including more signs, using the water cycle on the back of toilet doors as an example- where are people waiting/looking for something to read? We also need to explain why the council is taking action. Including QR codes on signs to connect to more information could be important. Visual messages such as posts showing sea rise levels could be important- how can we have these messages that induce motivation instead of panic?
Becoming a “National Park City”
Becoming a National Park City is a symbolic act that builds a sense of the importance of restoration. It encourages a sense of identity and is important branding for eco-tourism, while promoting ecological value (and ecological literacy).
Direct Action Ideas
- Send council leaders on an ecology course so they have a comprehensive understanding of issues and can use ecological terms correctly-maybe a bus tour with young people and scientists so they get high engagement
- Hold public talks on what the council is doing/what they need to do
- Improved maps of parks, reserves and linking corridors, both on websites and in paper. These maps could be interactive, including biodiversity of the area and history stories
- Discuss ecosystem services in monetary terms and carbon sequestration terms
- Incorporate amenity values (trails, art, learning) through feedback from people
- Have councils explore community based carbon offsets
We want strong, focused leadership with a strategic plan for the most effective and resilient ways to restore ecology, with accessible information and multiple ways for the community to get involved.