Plant seeds in people

“It’s crucial that we make time for blue sky thinking.” Sophie Handford imagines Paekākāriki in 50 years. The second in our series of stories by young residents on what we will, or could look like in the future. Images by Louve Pharand-Doucet.

Louve Pharand-Doucet

Paekākāriki is a special place. It’s not just a village, it’s a community. We are a whānau. It’s a great place to be a child, an adult, a retiree, a creative, a worker. But most importantly, it’s a place to be whoever and whatever you want to be.

Paekākāriki is made special by the people that call it home. The beautiful thing about wondering what Paekākāriki could and will look like in 50 years time is that it could become just about whatever vision the community and iwi unites behind and works to create. Paekākāriki is home to many passionate, kind, innovative do-gooders. When the heads of these people come together, anything seems possible. 

We have opportunities galore and potential yet to be discovered. 

When I first posed this question to myself, I closed my eyes. I saw colour, nature, people connecting with one another. Pedestrianised streets, cyclists, surfers, art. Skill and resource sharing, intergenerational harmony. Music, community gardening and smiles.

Louve Pharand-Doucet

I imagine colourful murals communicating a vision of hope and unity – not only on Beach Road but scattered around the village streets. Stories of our history sit alongside this vision for the future.

Nature, wildlife and biodiversity thrive. I imagine Wainuiwhenua; a space for us to continue to connect with one another but also with our environment through opportunities for social, environmental and economic development. I imagine this to be a space loved by everyone — no matter your age or which part of Kāpiti or Aotearoa you’re from. 

I can’t see many cars on the road, instead people are walking and cycling. Just think — Paekākāriki could become the safest place to cycle in the whole country! In 50 years’ time, I see our village shopping area re-envisioned to accommodate for this.

I imagine renewable electricity generation by the community, for the community. From wind turbines providing for most households, with some having their own solar micro-grids – we could take Paekākāriki off the grid. Initiatives like this would allow us to be a blueprint for the resilience initiatives that could happen nationwide, growing interest in this beautiful village but also hopefully giving us more leverage on resources needed to sustain these kinds of projects.

The coastline will be better supported to fend off the impacts of climate change but I don’t imagine managed retreat will be out of the picture. Within the next 50 years, I am sure there will be some hard conversations to be had but ones that we will end up the better for. This could mean Paekākāriki will look very different than it does now – it’s hard to know. Resilience to climate change isn’t just about building sea walls and retreating from the coast, it’s about connected communities. Maintaining and continuing to build on the culture of this Paekākāriki whanau will be vital, ensuring we’re able to have these hard conversations and be there for one another through the process of change. 

I see many tamariki and a thriving Paekākāriki School community. Empowering our tamariki and youth will be a focus, part of which will include acknowledging and tapping into intergenerational learnings through mentorship schemes and the like.

Through initiatives like these, we begin to bring more people in as active community members. We want to grow this core team within our village to avoid fatigue and burnout and instead plant seeds in people, allowing them to blossom into community champions. 

We have so much passion and love here in our neck of the woods. In order to create the best possible village for our next generation who will be living here in 50 years, we must harness the passion, creativity and skills of those who currently call this special place home.

I imagined the future of Paekākāriki through the simple exercise of closing my eyes and visioning. I think it’s crucial that we make time for blue sky thinking and have conversations around how we action this so that together, we are working towards the perfect Paekākāriki. It’s pretty close to this already though if you ask me… We are so lucky. Let’s ensure our tamariki are able to enjoy it as much, if not more, than we do.

‘I think it’s crucial that we make time for blue sky thinking’, Sophie Handford. Image: Louve Pharand-Doucet

Sophie Handford was national coordinator of the School Strikes 4 Climate, helping to mobilise more than 170,000 people. In 2019 she became New Zealand’s youngest elected Councillor with Kapiti Coast District Council and jointly won the supreme award at the 2019 Wellingtonian of the Year awards.

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