Hawke’s Bay Future Scenarios
Prepared by HB Regional Council

Editor: The Regional Council has prepared for public consideration three alternative scenarios for Hawke’s Bay looking ahead to 2050. The scenarios are represented in three stories – Land, River, Us – which are supported with extensive data and analysis regarding trends both within the Bay and affecting our future from the outside. The full report is at www.hb2050.org.nz

As the report says: “…the end product is a careful blend of fact and opinion. Some will find it challenging, even alarming; others may feel we do not go far enough. The exercise is necessarily a balancing act between introducing sufficient new information and concepts to trigger debate, and losing people either because their own particular vision is not readily apparent or because some of the ideas are unpalatable.”

As you read the stories, think about these questions:

  • How will we respond to changes in the nature of primary production?
  • Where does Hawke’s Bay’s future lie as an agricultural economy?
  • Is New Zealand’s distance and relative isolation a strength or a weakness?
  • How will we work together to manage the competing demands for water?
  • What opportunities do the problems of too much or too little water provide?
  • What will integrated land use, soil and water management look like?
  • What could change if Maori become a significant source of investment income in Hawke’s Bay?
  • Where will Maoridom’s next leaders come from?
  • What will New Zealanders look like in 2050?

Land – Scenario 1

“Hang on a minute love, give an old man time to catch his breath.”

I lean heavily on a fencepost and wipe the sweat off my forehead. Even the smallest of hills has me puffing these days. My granddaughter strides back towards me. It’s good to see her looking so at home on the land. I feel a twinge of envy, or is it sadness? Probably both. She has the strength and the confidence I used to have.

“Sorry Pop, I knew we should have driven up.”

“Nonsense girl, if I can’t walk across a paddock, you might as well plant me now.”

Su-Lyn laughs. “We’ve planted quite enough round here lately, I haven’t got the energy to plant you as well. Especially in this heat.”

She takes me by the arm and we walk slowly together to the top of the rise. From here we look out over an expanse of spiky brown bushes, marching across the valley in neatly planted rows.

“We can start harvesting next week if the heat stays up,” she says. “Then we’ll get to see if these little gems are the treasure trove that’s promised.”

“You can’t lose this time. It’s not like they can grow a cure for alzheimers just anywhere,” I reply. Who’d have thought this humble valley could provide just the right conditions for such a specialised crop? It took smart people like Su-Lyn’s mother to figure it out. I look beyond the valley at the patchwork of colours and textures stretching out across the plains and marvel at the creativity of modern horticulture. That’s what the EIT partnership with Xuzhou University in China has given us – smart people thinking about how to use the land better through high-tech farming.

My gaze drifts to the hazy hills in the distance and I think about how much things have changed. It’s over 40 years now, but it seems like only yesterday that I was chasing sheep across those scoured slopes. Who’d have thought they’d be growing energy in the hills and drugs in the valleys, while the Russians grow meat in laboratories? Who’d have thought a lot of things?

Down below in the valley is a mass of ready customers for the berry-laden bushes in front of me. The fruit would have to go all the way to France to be processed before returning as drugs to those living down there – but if the crop worked out, we could do the initial processing here. It’s getting easier to do these things nowadays, with all the improvements they’ve made to transport and infrastructure. The port development kicked it all off and the government started getting it right for a change. People aren’t strangled by red tape like they used to be.

“Go sit in the shade, eh Granddad. I need to check on my root auto-monitors.”

I take the girl’s advice and sit under the verandah of the old pump shed. It feels like one of my geriatric friends – we can hang out and remember old times. It still makes me shudder to think about the big drought that dried up the bores and turned pumphouses like this one into relics. With all the urban development going on at the time, there wasn’t enough water to go around. The city people finally understood their link to the land when they couldn’t buy local fruit and veges anymore and they even lost their gardens because of water bans.

The oil shock was the last straw. Export markets nearly died completely. Those of us without debt managed to survive, but we had to work differently with the land since what we used to call droughts became normal weather. A few sheep farms still survive, but they’re only in business because windmills and sheep can share the same paddocks. The GE grass has helped as well, but I never liked GE. I’m ashamed to think how stubborn I was, and how slow to change. My old place is a forest now. If only I’d planted it myself things might have been different.

“You okay Pop? You look a bit pale,” Su-Lyn says, joining me in the shade.

“Just thinking back to when we lost the farm,” I reply.

She nods in sympathy as I continue my musing. It was a hard thing to do, walking off the land, especially since we virtually had to give it away. The local Maori and their Asian partners just swooped in and grabbed the lot. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time – but the iwi corporations turned out to be a godsend for the region. After all, my son never would have got the lease on this place if it hadn’t been for them. It was good to see local kids stay in the region and get a chance to work the land, like we did.

“Things needed to change and we weren’t able to do it without a major kick up the bum. It’s all worked out good in the end,” I say.

“What made the difference?” Su-Lyn asks.

When the chips were down, people started working together. We saw lots of innovation, farming got more hi-tech and growers got much better at marketing. I admire people like my son who experimented with different crops and new management systems. Now my granddaughter is taking it a step further by trialling crops we would never have dreamed of. With diversity of crops came diversity of people, and the region is blooming. All they had to do was to make sure the city didn’t swallow all the good land up.

I scan the plains and smile at the mix of development below – the etching of crops interspersed with tightly constrained villages. The growers have led prosperity once more, like they did in the past. As for me and this old pumpshed, we are artefacts of history. New ideas march on – feeding life and growth, just like the shining river below.

River – Scenario 2

I remember the times before people came. The land moved more slowly back then. Over the years, people changed the land and the land sped up. That’s when the earth mother, Papatūānuku, started to get angry with me. She accused me of stripping her bare, of taking her soils too quickly. Me, I’m a river, Waikopikopiko, I just flow and I carry what comes to me.

I remember when the hills were rich with forest. The men would quench their thirst at my tributaries as they stripped the hills bare. Then came the sheep and cattle, and I could feel the hills collapsing into my valleys. When the clouds burst, the soils could not hold the rain. They gave up their richness to me and I carried it away while Papatūānuku raged.

Then something started to change. The people began to take more of me away so they could feed the gasping soil. They squabbled over how much of me they could have, and they would come to my banks and sigh, seeing the problems but not being able to change their ways. I passed them by, heavy laden.

One day the sighs turned into angry wails. It was not Papatūānuku who forced their hand but foreign buyers of sweetcorn. I heard arguments on the wind about how buyers didn’t want to deal with the region anymore because the soils and the river were being raped. It wasn’t just the people who lived along my banks who cared, it was faraway people who cared as well. As I flowed my wandering way across the plains, I saw the farmers kicking dust in their fields.

The arguments were soon replaced by water meters and every drop of me was monitored, measured and carefully managed. When people gazed into my muddy depths they saw liquid dollars, and they saw the balance sheet was working against them. They began to build reservoirs to harvest winter flows in the hills and to feed me during the lean summer months. They saved up the stormwater from the city and cleaned it for reuse, instead of leaking it into to the sea. The accountants were pleased that they had learned to manage water like they managed money. The farmers were pleased that they had learned to harvest water like they harvested their crops. The people were pleased that their drought-resistant gardens still flowered even without watering. While the people learned and adapted, I just kept on flowing past.

Then one day Ranginui, the sky father, made a big deposit. My waters raged down the scoured hills and plunged onto the plains. I broke through the high banks that were built to contain me. I flowed through sheds and among vines. I flowed through living rooms and carried away the children’s toys. The people cursed the soil as they shovelled it from their kitchen cupboards and hosed it from their carpets. The people raged.

The leaders looked at their balance sheets and decided that the soil was a long-term investment account that no-one had put any money into. The people stopped shouting and saw it was time to make changes. They went up to headwaters of my tributaries and began to hui. From the hills they could see far, and they got a better view of the land. Strategists, environmental and social scientists joined the hui and they talked day and night, sharing knowledge just like old times. They saw what could be done.

Up in the hills, the people began to plant trees. Papatūānuku stirred from her melancholy as she felt the roots of her cloak being restored. It was a patchwork cloak of many species, trees to build with, trees for energy, plants for food, trees to swallow carbon from the air. The soil started to hold firm.

One day I tasted poison from the city. The sour taste grew stronger with every fall of rain. Slowly the people began to notice and they found where it was coming from. The land that is now a city park was once a tip where people threw their rubbish. Time had distilled it into leachate, which Papatūānuku could no longer hold in her stomach. I carried her bile to the sea.

Down in the lowland I felt the rumble of bulldozers. I was used to bulldozers building up my banks to protect the towns and farms from flooding, but their movements were different this time. After many months of rumbling and digging, I was suddenly spilled into a whole new network of channels. I wandered and turned through the new wetland they had built for me, marvelling at the change of pace. The people clapped and slapped each other on the banks as they set off across the boardwalks that spanned their swampy triumph. I languished in the caress of reeds whose ancient touch I had almost forgotten.

The day I slowed to enter the people’s wetland is the day the changes in me quickened. Knowledge had taken root and grown like the forests on the hills and I felt it all along my banks. I watched the engineers create new wastewater systems that ensured every drop was reused. I saw organic wastes returned as compost to feed the soil.

I listened as people in the towns installed rainwater tanks. I watched as farmers planted crops that drank less of me. I listened as the korero grew stronger with many voices speaking as one about how to manage the liquid taonga. The people looked into my depths and saw how I had changed, just as they had.

The clouds cleared one day and haven’t returned for many moons. The sun blazes down as seasons pass and Papatūānuku is parched. The people squint at the sky day after day and plead for rain. Little comes, but my waters still flow. When the days grow too hot, the people cool themselves in my pools. Through all their hui, they had learned to draw on their reserves and make their savings. They had learned to flow with the rises and falls of the water, just as I do.

This drought has gone longer than most. For now, I languish in my wetland and go no further. I hear the kahawai calling me from the sea but I can’t reach them, my waters are spent in the lowlands. I will taste the kahawai when the rains return. I’m a river, I will always flow, Waikopikopiko.

Us – Scenario 3

The lawyer slides a document across the wide, shiny table and I pause to stare at where my signature is to go. I can hardly believe this is happening. I sign slowly, savouring the moment. For the others in the room, this is just a formality. For me, it is the realisation of a dream.

Once the deed is done, I’m keen to shake hands and leave without ceremony. There’s someone else I’d rather share this milestone with. After all the negotiating and paperwork it’s time to roll up my sleeves and let my sweat flow onto the soil. I just want to breathe the smell of the earth.

As I walk out of the warm office building, I feel the bite of the south-easterly coming off the sea. The wind whips at the trees along the breakwater and hurries me to my car. I look out at the large waves rolling in and wonder what part of the coast they are chewing at this time.

The wind buffets my vehicle as I head down Marine Parade, past the slick, high-rise hotels and office buildings. Turning inland, the city’s character gradually changes as I drive through the new housing developments. They were built to fit more people into smaller spaces and shopping malls became village squares. I look at the splash of graffiti on the side of the Police kiosk and wonder if any city has ever got it right.

I pull into the liquor barn and pick up a twelve-pack. A group of young fullas huddles in the doorway, digging deeply in their sagging pockets. One of them eyes my beer keenly as I walk past. I eyeball him back. Don’t even think about it bro.

It makes me sad to see these boys. I silently pledge to help them – if I can. The opportunities are out there to do something with their lives, but too often they don’t want to – or don’t know how. I was one of the fortunate ones. My mum and dad brought me up to know my heart and my history. From where I grew up on the edge of town, I could hear the call of the land and I followed that calling. After training as a cadet on hapū land, I was able to get a scholarship and did my science degree at Massey. When I was these boys’ age, I wouldn’t have thought I’d have the brains to do it. But I did – and all that work paid off today when I signed that bit of paper.

I get back in my car and drive quickly away. I never like coming into the city. There are constant reminders of how things aren’t what they could be. After the Treaty claims were settled, our people held so much hope for a bright future. Twenty years on, the hui still drag on and too little has changed. Old grievances feed new cynicism and most people don’t even know who they are angry at anymore. Except Dad. He knows. I remember how he used to go crook about the tribal management that was put in place when the Deed of Settlement was finally signed. He didn’t think that the same old people who had done the negotiations should be the ones to govern the new business. Like it was their right.

“We need new blood,” he used to mutter. “Not these same old patero.”

“It’s a democratic system, Dad,” I would say. “All you have to do is vote.”

“Need decent people to vote for,” Dad would grumble back.

I always thought my Dad would be a good leader, but he said he wasn’t born with the right name. Without the right name, you needed education, he said. I listened and I got educated. Now I have a chance to do the job I reckon my Dad could have done. I smile to myself as I think about the outcome of the recent election. Who would have thought I’d make it onto the Trust eh? Things are starting to change.

For change to happen quickly, people need to learn personal responsibility, Dad always said. The tribe has failed to teach them that, those boys at the liquor barn, just like the government failed before. So how can I make a difference? I pray for the wisdom to figure it out. But as I pass by the hospital, I’m reminded of all the good things we have achieved. Like the medical arm of the Waikopikopiko Trust who put all that money into research and came up with a possible cure for diabetes. Someone should get a Nobel Prize for that I reckon, if it pans out.

As I cross the river and drive past all the new factories, I can see all the other fruits of iwi investment. Like Auntie’s Garden, which is now one of the biggest producers in the region. Green branding has worked well for Aotearoa, but Pasifika has worked better for the Bay. Then there’s the biofuel plant over by the port. That was one of the gutsiest moves made by the iwi, and it paid off big time when the oil prices took off. There’s a lot to be proud of, but there’s a lot more to be done.

I pull into the housing cluster on the edge of town and stop in the parking bay. Dad looks up from where he’s working in the common vege garden. This community has figured out that the best use of scarce land is to feed themselves. Dad always said to me: Why grow weeds when you can grow food? And he’d say it to every other kid who would listen. That became my motto for life.

I wave my precious papers in greeting. He, of all people, understands the importance of this day. He passes his spade to the child working next to him and strides over to greet me with a hongi. Slowly he draws back and holds me at arms length, looking at me intently.

“All signed,” I say, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

“Eee Atama, it’s been quite a month boy. First you got voted onto the Trust, and now you’ve got your own piece of tribal land.” I could see the tears in his eyes. “When I was your age I couldn’t even get a loan for a house.”

“I think this calls for a beer, eh Dad.”

Ends

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