Meet some of the awesome people changing the world right here in Aotearoa.

There’s hope yet

If you’re anything like me, you may have been feeling what I sometimes call the “world is ending” blues. While I genuinely believe there is hope and we can change our world for the better, sometimes it can be really hard to feel that.

For many of us, it’s felt hard lately to imagine what we can do at this time to be part of making change, and this can feel frustrating.

I worked as an “engagement and mobilisation” specialist for Greenpeace Aotearoa, which saw me meeting local activists and campaigners, chatting to regenerative and organic farmers and growers and trying to build momentum in communities to solve environmental issues, such as climate change, and transforming our food system. 

Last year, I was lucky enough to go on a little road trip around the country for work, meeting folks who, I reckon, have been “making a difference”. Whilst we spent time together, I decided to interview some of them to find out what’s keeping them hopeful, and what kind of things everyday people like you and me can do to help create the more beautiful future we want for this world. 

First of all I want you to meet Siana Fitzjohn and the Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi crew

You might recall a daring feat in 2019 when two climbers intercepted an oil drilling rig at sea, as it was making its way across the Cook Strait and scaled the anchor chain of the 100m high prospecting vessel. Their bravery earned nationwide media coverage and drew attention to the issue of deep sea oil drilling. Not long afterwards, Austrian oil giant OMV halted its drilling operations. 

One of these climbers was Siana Fitzjohn. During an interview by Stuff at the time she said; “We want to show resistance at every step and a bold move like intercepting a rig in the middle of the ocean, whilst in transit, I think sends a pretty powerful message to the wider public of just how serious we’re taking this.”  

I found this act of courage very inspiring, so I was pretty stoked to tag along with Siana to an Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi (XRŌ) meeting and meet her friends, a diverse group of more than twenty activists who meet regularly at their local community centre to plan what they can do in their own community to tackle climate change.

Siana speaks to media at a recent protest in Christchurch, 2021
Siana speaks to media at a recent protest in Christchurch, 2021

The group, which is connected to a global movement of climate “rebels”, uses direct action and communication tactics, such as protests, presentations and creative confrontation, to bring about change. They challenge decision-makers – like the Government or their Regional Council – to respond to the urgent threat of climate change and make decisions to protect people and the planet, whilst holding the polluters to account.

Some days you might find them chained to the gate of a coal mine, stopping trucks from entering, while at other times you could find their members presenting at a Regional Council meeting, doing a flyer run or organising a rally. 

Whatever they’re doing, XRŌ folks stand up for the planet with courage, dedication and a sense of fun

I had a chat to Siana about what she does and why she does it …

Siana, why do you think direct action is important and what would you say to someone who’s never done it before? 

“Direct action is important because it teaches you more about the system that you’re trying to change. If you haven’t done it before then find people whose company you enjoy to join on that journey.”

What’s giving you hope during these challenging times? 

“My friends, and my gut feelings.”

Why did you get involved in XRŌ and what do you love about it? 

“I got involved after getting back from overseas because they were the biggest group in Christchurch doing direct action on climate issues. 

What I love most is the fun and ridiculous times we have together.”

What’s the XRŌ action I’ve been most proud of? 

“Shutting down the Canterbury coal mine, because we were ambitious, the action was fun, challenging, and it worked.”

Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince speak at a zero-waste hui outside Parliament
Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince speak at a zero-waste hui outside Parliament

Next up, meet Hannah and Liam, real-life zero-waste heroes, championing the circular economy in Te Whanganui-a-Tara

If you ask anyone in the zero waste movement who they go to for expertise on waste issues of any kind, your most likely answer will be “Hannah and Liam” from The Rubbish Trip.

At Greenpeace, we call upon these zero waste heroes whenever we need some extra guidance with our plastics campaign, and you can even find their articles and reports on our website.

Hannah Blumbhardt and Liam Prince are two waste campaigners (in their own right) who together make up “The Rubbish Trip”, a zero-waste advocacy project which sees the duo travelling around the country (often by bicycle, bus or even hitchhiking) and running waste-free living workshops to jam-packed audiences in town halls and community centres wherever they go. You can read more about their story here.

They’re currently based in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara/ Wellington and have their fingers in about a thousand different zero-waste pies; Hannah does advocacy work and is a fellow at Victoria University, giving guidance on waste policy whilst campaigning for reusable and refillable circular economy systems and writes journal pieces for the Conversation in her “spare time”

Here at Greenpeace, we’ve been lucky to get Hannah’s expertise on our campaign to reduce plastics by advocating for refillable and reusable systems (we’re talkin’ about the circular economy, baby!)

Liam gets into community gardening and has supported setting up composting infrastructure for community gardens, including a project called Kai Cycle whereby food scraps are collected from local cafes and businesses (via a bike with a carrier on the back) and turned into compost nearby community gardens. It’s a beautiful system, eliminating food waste while providing high-quality compost to grow healthy kai. 

I caught up with them in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara to eat vegan pizzas (yum) and see what they’ve been up to.

What do you think is going to happen next year with our waste systems in Aotearoa? Anything you’re excited about? 

“The Government is updating waste legislation and strategy, and this has the potential to really change things up for the better, particularly if they improve proposals along the lines of what the zero waste community has called for,” Liam says.

“If designed properly, new regulations and investments could be used to help support the grassroots zero waste activity already happening across Aotearoa and we’d love to see government support of New Zealand’s zero waste champions (both businesses and non-profits) at the local, community-scale. 

“We’ll especially have our eye on more examples of refill/reuse packaging systems, and more decentralised local composting initiatives,” he says. 

“We’re also really excited and inspired about the potential of a Te Tiriti-based approach to environmental policy to transform the future in a positive way – there’s been some great kōrero around this lately. 

“In the zero waste world, Para Kore have really next-levelled the conversation, and we’re looking forward to being part of this expanding conversation in 2022 and beyond,” he says.

What is the best thing people can do to help bring zero waste to life in Aotearoa next year?

 “Compost your food scraps if you aren’t already and also, if you can, hunt out and support small and medium-sized businesses in your local area who are making an effort to change the way they do business to be less wasteful,” Hannah says.

“Whether it’s your local cafe that’s made the brave step of getting rid of disposable coffee cups, or the new zero-waste grocer that’s opened up in your town that’s selling unpackaged essentials, or the urban farm down the road that’s started a vege box scheme.”

Check out this short video and find out how you can show support for zero waste initiatives. 

What’s giving you hope at the moment, given everything that’s going on?

“The level of collaboration going on at the local, grassroots scale at the moment is epic! It feels like something’s in the air right now in terms of a sense of urgency around organising and working together to bring about a just transition to a zero-waste, low-carbon future. 

“We like to get out and do some gardening when we’re really frazzled,” Hannah says,

“We’ve been feeling uplifted by all the urban farming, composting and community gardening initiatives around Aotearoa.”

This is what climate justice in action looks like, Taranaki

“If the government won’t rise up for climate justice, we will” – Tuhi-Ao Bailey

Emily Tuhi-Ao Bailey (Ngāti Mutunga, Te Ātiawa, Taranaki) is an eco-warrior from way back; dedicated to environmental and social justice issues, mother of two beautiful children, ecologist and gardener. She is a leader in the climate justice movement, and has organised countless rallies and community events, all whilst supporting her hāpu and whānau living at Parihaka, in South Taranaki. 

Emily Tuhi-Ao Bailey and tamahine (daughter) Hoengārangi Signer harvest kai at the Pā, Parihaka.
Emily Tuhi-Ao Bailey and tamahine (daughter) Hoengārangi Signer harvest kai at the Pā, Parihaka.

I think what I found so inspiring about visiting Tuhi-Ao and her whānau on their little piece of paradise (land which they have resurrected from its previous life as a dairy farm), just down the road from the Parihaka Pā, is how entwined their climate action is with regenerative mahi, like setting-up mara kai, stream monitoring and riparian planting. 

Tuhi-Ao’s climate mahi, including protesting oil and gas exploration in the Taranaki region, always goes hand-in-hand with social justice issues; together with her friends from Climate Justice Taranaki Tuhi-Ao wrote a Just Transition plan for the region, showing how Taranaki could transition to sustainable ways of living, whilst still providing jobs and support for the community. 

While the recent climate conference in Paris took place (COP26) Tuhi-Ao, along with Climate Justice Taranaki and other climate activist groups organised a week of action and remembrance (coinciding with Parihaka’s invasion day on November 5th), inspiring people around the country to take action for the climate and to remember the harmful colonial legacy of land theft in Aotearoa, where the roots of intensive dairying – New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter – were seeded.  

Tuhi-Ao said at the time, “If the government won’t rise up for climate justice, we will,” – and she really meant it. 

“People [must] push back against business as usual and demand real change, not hypothetical or harmful techno-fixes and a disastrous carbon trading and offset system,” she said.

Tuhi-Ao and Hoengārangi planting popcorn
Tuhi-Ao and Hoengārangi planting popcorn

Climate Justice Taranaki is a community group Tuhi-Ao founded with her partner, Urs Signer, and their friends. Dedicated to justice, education, resistance and positive action at the front lines of climate change, they recently halted works at Fonterra’s dairy factory in Hawera, opposing the devastating impacts conventional dairying has on Taranaki’s rivers and climate.

“Our vision is a world that values resource conservation and efficiency, and sustainable energy, agriculture, transport and other systems that bring justice for the common people, future generations and planet Earth,” Tuhi-Ao says. 

Friends at the Learning Environment farm, in Whanganui, harvest greens for a local market
Friends at the Learning Environment farm, in Whanganui, harvest greens for a local market

The Learning Centre, Whanganui

When a bunch of friends, passionate about permaculture and conservation, came together in 2017 to collectively imagine creating a learning centre based around regenerative living, they had no idea what they were in for. 

Four years later they’ve all moved to Whanganui, and crowd-funded land where they can upskill and educate young people (and adults too) about living regeneratively. 

They are gearing up to run courses to educate people on collaborative leadership, how to grow healthy kai, native forests and human wellbeing.


Harvest time: As well as teaching people how to grow kai (food), the farm runs a produce garden, growing crops, like kūmārā to sell to at local markets

It’s early days, so it was inspiring to catch-up with co-founder Julie Crocker and hear what’s coming up next and how people can get involved. 

“I think the world is changing in a way that we are realising what health means for us and for the planet and so with that awareness comes change and comes learning – I think that is exciting,” says Julie. 

“I feel the change happening in some aspects of society – as well as what we’re trying to do [here at the Learning Environment].” 

Just into their second year of establishing the farm, this year will be about developing the space so it can support the education programmes they want to offer.

“We’re going to be improving our infrastructure so we can host more educational experiences and land-based learning, which is what we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

“As well as running courses here at the Learning Environment, we’ll also be doing community engagement and hui in Whanganui, learning more about what would be valuable for this community to have – so the Learning Environment can be a resource and place of education [for people here].”

Being part of a project dedicated to regenerative learning keeps Julie hopeful when times are challenging in the world, she says.

“I feel hope in the possibility of unlocking human potential in a way that is nourishing for all beings and is regenerative,” she says. 

“Even though this change and adjustment period to realising our potential as humans [is challenging]; there seems to be a tide changing toward looking after ourselves more, wanting education to be better, wanting [people] to thrive and organising things in a way that are life-giving.”

So how can people connect and get involved?

“People can get involved by sharing our videos and stories from our website and social media, and help us build our connection around Aotearoa,” says Julie. 

“If you’re Whanganui-based there are regular volunteering opportunities on the farm – come meet us!”

The Learning Environment run courses for young people to learn about conservation
The Learning Environment run courses for young people to learn about conservation
A child is sitting on a woman's shoulders, walking in street, they have a sign that says Climate action now
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