Having travelled from all corners of the country, on Sunday, 16 November the participants finally met and LocalNZ began. Over 30 young people arrived to spend four days answering the research question: Are the goals of NZ Inc the same as Regional NZ Inc – and if dissimilar, what would these differences look like? The group took advantage of the beautiful Wanganui weather to start things off in the garden of the hostel, with Wendy giving an introduction and the participants having a chance to eat and chat to one another. For the rest of the day, it was non-stop.
American Richard Louv kicked off the long list of speakers after being introduced by Professor Charles Daugherty from Victoria University. Louv is the workshop’s keynote speaker, and he did not disappoint. He spoke of the modern disconnect between people and nature and the adverse effect this is having on our physical and mental health. This prompted myriad questions for Louv, who seemed taken aback by the high calibre of engagement. The bar was set high for the coming days.
Participants then deviated somewhat, taking in the local art scene by visiting a local glass-blowing studio, where a demonstration was put on for them. This proved a welcome distraction as some participants began to realise how challenging the task ahead would be.
In the afternoon the group visited the Wanganui Opera House to attend the opening of A Place to Live conference. Dame Anne Salmond initiated the conference with an impassioned address on the Whanganui River Settlement – a topical issue, especially for the locals present. Salmond’s speech was both erudite and accessible, and the material covered may have resonated with participants, who were staying on the banks of the Whanganui River and were anticipating the journey up it in the morning.
Back at the hostel, Councillor Helen Craig and Jim Callaghan rounded off the day’s speeches with presentations that were very different yet both thought provoking. The participants engaged in a Q & A session with Craig and Callaghan and had some time to split into groups and discuss ideas – before the thought of a 7 a.m. start drove them to bed.