‘How Did We Get So Lucky Grandma’? Far North Holdings 2040

 “How did we get so lucky here in Tai Tokerau, Grandma?” a child in 2040 asks one of the community elders.  “It all started,’ she explains, “when five local groups came together after the Covid19 crisis…..Far North Flourishing kds
The Local Government Amendment Act 2019 gives Councils responsibility to ‘Promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities in the present and the future.’ 
FNHL protest bannerSo why does the Statement of Intent of our Council’s company Far North Holdings focus solely on financial outcomes? Surely our ratepayers’ company is best governed in the broad long-term interests of us all?
What follows is my reminder of this ‘oversight’  – via FNDC Annual Plan hearing video link on 6 May 2020 to our Far North District Mayor and Councillors.

The corporate arm of Wellington Council is entrusted to:
              “Exhibit a sense of social and environmental responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when possible.”

I am going to explain why good governance by our own council calls for amendment throughout this year’s Annual Plan to reflect the responsibility to promote all 4 aspects of wellbeing.   But first,  a story …..
 It’s May 6th 2040 and our children, grandchildren, our nieces and nephews and their peers are celebrating! They are stakeholders within a flourishing and regenerative Far North district and revel in how no-one is left out. All residents have the means to access their preferred choices for fresh healthy locally-produced food, warm homes, safe communities and sports, learning and outdoor recreation opportunities. 

 “How did we get so lucky, Grandma?” a child asks one of the community elders.  “It all started,’ she explains, “when five groups identified within our local economy came together after the Covid19 crisis. It felt wierd at first, meeting online together. We representatives of hapu, of householders, of businesses, of ecosystems, and of local and national government met together regularly and realised in our hearts was a common goal:  to gear up for a future for you children to grow up in a flourishing and sustainable district where no-one would be left out.“

“Remember”, another kuia reminisces, “How we talked with that economist, Kate Raworth?   We came up with 2 questions:
 ‘How many benefits can we generate in how we design our Far North Economy? ‘ and  “How can we build in good along the way?“
“It all seemed too big a task eh?” The first elder continued. “But then we found we all agreed where we needed to start, with effective citizen-led governance for ‘Far North Holdings’, the business we all had a stake in, or rather we thought we did…..“



I’m here to add to the voice for change to FNHL from fellow SEA CHANGE members.  I reiterate the need to reflect all 4 wellbeings, not simply one, in our council company’s ‘statement of intent’. FNHL is, or should be a ‘social enterprise’. Let me remind you again of the clause Wellington Council, who clearly understand the concept,  use in their Statement of Intent:
“Exhibit a sense of social and environmental responsibility by having regard to the interests of the community in which it operates and by endeavouring to accommodate or encourage these when possible.”

The 21st century corporate adventure means doing things differently.  There’s a clear shift from the old thinking of ’How much financial value can I extract?‘ to a new mindset: ‘How many benefits can we generate in the way we design the system?  / How can we do good along the way ?  / Is the organisation regenerative by design?’  

.Marjorie Kelly Owning our Future

Corporate analysist, Marjorie Kelly describes 5 criteria of a 21st century company:

  1. Purpose – what is the mission?   Is it ‘Increasing market share’ or a ‘safe and flourishing Far North’?
  2. Governance – what incentives do staff have ?  Are they around increased profits or are they around cutting water use, cutting carbon, and further wellbeing outcomes? 
  3. Networks  – do these align with others who share their values ?
  4. Ownership – who are the stakeholders –  how impactful is their voice?
  5. Finance  – where is the voice of finance situated? Is it ‘how much financial value can we extract from this’ or does finance add to the wider benefits that are generated by the organisation? 

Council’s responsibility is governance not management : it is to be the dog not to allow the tail to do the wagging!
It’s time to walk the talk of wellbeing. An informed understanding cannot come from metrics of dollars or numbers of jobs in the district. Wellbeing is when people are able to lead fulfilling lives with purpose, balance and meaning to them.  For wellbeing to arise post-Covid19, financial factors alone will never get us there.FNHL logo

21st century understanding recognises how wellbeing deends upon social, cultural and environmental factors alongside  financial aspects. Amending  Council systems, wordings and processes to reflect its mandated responsibility for ‘wellbeing’ is a no-brainer.  The simple task of updating Far North Holding’s statement of intent will  become a role model for Council’s mission to be a visionary collaborator with the other 4 elements of the formal and informal Far North Economy: Hapu, Householders, Guardians of the natural commons and Businesses.   If what we seek is a flourishing and sustainable Far North where each person finds purpose, balance and meaning with none left behind, will Council start the ball rolling and update FNHL and the Annual Plan on behalf of our children?


FN Economy Contributors 2020


By September this year, the Far North District council must decide between 2 alternative processes for the next local government elections in 2022.

Do they vote to keep the status quo, the current First-Past-the-Post electoral ‘race’ or follow the lead of 11 progressive councils last year, and adopt the ‘Single-Transferable-Vote system?

‘STV’  stands  for  ‘Simple To Vote’!  It’s a fairer more democratic system where every vote for councillors, community board members and for the mayor counts.


As Professor Priya Kurian, Political Science and Public Policy lecturer at University of Waikato, points out,  “STV’s ability to better reflect the will of the entire voting population means it’s more likely to produce councils that look like the communities they represent.” [1]  Locals I speak with see a change to STV as well overdue.  It’s common knowledge that in last year’s elections, our current mayor received only 29% of the vote while some elected councillors and community board members ‘won’ only 10 or 11% of the vote.  The votes of the majority of citizens were wasted.TEMPLATE PAGE

Local government is a two-way relationship. We elect our local government leaders to go into battle on issues that matter to us.  Having a more diverse council will lessen the risk of them offending citizens by not understanding their needs and perspectives.   Citizens need to be able to identify with the members of Council and their local Community Board to maintain trust that elected members ‘have got their back.

The system only works well when we trust council and community board leaders to meet our needs and they can trust us to support them.   For our Council whose services are spread thinly over a vast area, support and collaboration with the general public is essential.

Take the current uproar in communities across the Far North about the actions of Far North Holdings Limited!  Furious local citizens of Russell, Opua, and Rangitane view the lack of transparency and consultation over wide-sweeping actions of FNHL as well outside the council mandate they expect.  An apparent disregard for the council’s legislated responsibility to ‘promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities in the present and the future’ [2] has grown into distrust of the local community board and our district council and a polarised ‘us v them’ approach.

We know STV is more representative, but will council members be willing to change the system that elected them?  If ego and complacency in the current system prevents councillors from supporting a change from FPP, a request for a district-wide poll is expected from Far North residents.  Its an expensive and labour-intensive option.  Why go to all that expense when it simply needs Council members to pass the resolution in favour of STV?stv flow chart

Author, Jane Banfield is a long-term resident of Paihia, a grandmother and a volunteer in the SEA CHANGE movement (www.seachange.kiwi), set up last year to see transformation within Far North local government to address local climate, environmental and community issues.    In February 2020, Jane and fellow SEA CHANGE volunteer, Andrew Riddell spoke at the  public FNDC meeting to point out the many benefits of a shift to STV. 

[1] Professor Priya Kurian, Political Science and Public Policy lecturer at University of Waikato https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/opinion/115706549/diversity-key-to-responsive-local-government

[2] 2019 Amendment: Local Government Act


Its 2019 and time for new vision! Last year, though it felt odd being at university at the age of 60,  I chose to become a Masters research student.  I wanted to find out why mainstream waste minimisation strategies were not working and whether the national Māori zero waste organisation, Para Kore, had a more useful approach.  Studying has been ridiculously hard, immensely rewarding, has given me a vision for our region, the Far North.

What I’ve found while interviewing folk who were moving to zero waste lifestyles is an inspiring commonality.  New Zealand citizens of all ages and walks of life that adopt zero waste lifestyles demonstrate a spacious and contented sense of being who they want to be. ‘Zero wasters’ had formed greater connections with  neighbours and community,  felt good about themselves, and enjoyed improved household health and wellbeing. Costs were down too but it was their sense of respect for the natural ecosystems around them and a regained understanding of deep held principles that set these people apart.  You couldn’t help being drawn to their lifestyle and it started me thinking more widely. 


I’m convinced (and excited) that for us local householders, a flourishing Far North region is ‘ours for the taking’!  Far North Flourishing is a vision of every Far North home celebrating life, health and vitality.  Of neighbourhoods not just safe but are flourishing.  Loneliness a thing of the past, children thriving, and ecosystems regenerating.   Birdsong returning to the bush, people enjoying the support of their neighbours, and the coastal waters beginning to burst afresh with marine life.

Would you be willing to shelve for a moment your ‘Yes, but….’ thinking (not an easy thing to do, for reasons that will become clear later)  and read on,  open to this possibility of a flourishing Far North region?  To share the 3 reasons which lead me to this conviction,  I’ve mapped my thinking across three blogs: i. Where it Starts ii. There is no ‘Them’ iii. Let the Journey Begin.   Like all maps there are a few twists and turns so it requires a bit of focus. I’m trusting you, dear reader, find inspiration for a celebratory year ahead. 

 Part One

Where it Starts: Householders are powerful influencers 


 “You will never solve problems using the same thinking that created them”, Einstein advised. Yet, that’s what we householders seem to be doing now, expecting businesses and the government to resolve the issues they have created?  Flogging a dead horse. Householders angrily railing against the business sector or the state at not sorting problems that have arisen: river pollution, or mental health, or obesity or the issues of waste.  It’s not surprising citizens see themselves as powerless, given recent political history.

pic of neoliberal economy
Outdated 20th-century  view of an Economy

For decades politicians have relegated us householders to a role as ‘consumers’. We’ve been told we need an economy something like that in the picture above where the business sector becomes the driver of an ever-growing economy, benefits ‘trickle down’ to all, and the government is on hand to sort out any issues. It was a political idea called ‘neoliberalism’. But while this system was meant to work out for everyone, it’s increasingly clear to every ‘man in the street’ that it is failing. The whole system seems broken. Well, perhaps it is! More and more economists and global political thinkers believe this political idea is well past its use-by-date if it ever had one, and I agree! 

This neoliberal economic model was never about reality, merely how a few reasonably brainy economists wildly over-simplified economic thinking down to a basic model so people could ‘get it’.  And they did! Because of the model’s simplicity and the needs of the time, this neoliberal model of ‘free market economies’ and ‘decoupling environmental issues from economic growth’ swept across the world.  Embraced first by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s, New Zealand followed soon after.   This same over-simplified idea that ‘a growing economy will make everybody thrive’ underpins practices of the Far North District Council today.  

Neoliberal politics saw the Far North District Council’s role shift from coordinating services on behalf of householders to becoming an economic driver in the region.  When problems developed from business sector activities which couldn’t be resolved by the Council, that same ‘Yes, but..” response came to the fore with justification or blame in place of local people working together to develop solutions.  Far North Holdings became a commercial business arm no longer open to control by the public, accountability  for decisions taken and outcomes achieved by FNDC narrowed to financial measures while  accountability for social, cultural and environmental wellbeing was pushed aside. 

In the depths of our being, we sense the issues all around us, threatening our wellbeing and that of our beloved natural environment.   The gap between wealthy and poor is growing, pollution of our environment is more and more obvious, mental and physical health is patchier, and loneliness is at an all time high.  We feel the system is doomed and unable to create the wellbeing we need so we householders have increasingly disconnected from both local and national politics.  We are left with that useless but understandable pastime of railing angrily at ‘them’ out of frustration. And while many sense that blaming ‘them’  is having  little effect,  just flogging a dead horse, what else can be done? 

Well, hey, remember neoliberalism was just one story that a few guys dreamed up to help us get a handle on the complexity of the workings of national economies. As political journalist, George Monbiot [3] puts it, “Neoliberalism is dead: we need a new story”.  Lets get real: those people and organisations to whom we address our ‘they should do something’ rants are themselves powerless within a broken system.  Surely, we must look into alternatives? 

The good news is that a new political model is now visibly emerging around the world.  It’s emerging here in the Far North too, you just may not be aware of it yet. Often termed the “Politics of Belonging”[3], it’s based around a newer wiser model of the economy[4] (see diagram) that progressive economists these days realise better depicts the real world. 

pic of Monbiot economy
The 4 drivers of  a 21st-century Economy. 

Now a way to resolve the challenges we face in the 21st century becomes clear.  Look carefully, can you see how we householders are now not merely portrayed as ‘consumers’ but understood as playing a vital role in driving our economy? Householders have power, just as the State and Business sectors do.  Indeed, more so, for we are also the ones that look after and create the vitality of the commons, those shared resources that belong to us all that are so vital to our national economy. 

when the people lead the leaders will follow Gandhi

This is what is so exciting, so empowering, knowing that what we householders do makes an essential difference to the way the nation runs.  So, if we aren’t as powerless as we’ve led ourselves to believe in recent years, can what we Far North householders do make enough difference to allow our region to flourish?  I believe so.  

There’s an African phrase, ‘Sihamba nabahambayo‘ which means, ‘We take along with us those who are ready for the journey’[1].  My next blog, ‘From Rubbish to Flourish Part Two: There is no ‘them’’ is subtitled, ‘It’s too lonely by ourselves but ‘easy as’ when we do stuff together with others’. In this blog,  you will also discover if you are a ‘Drifter’, an ‘Anchor’, a ‘Voyager’ or a ‘Treasure’!  You may find it’s just the journey you’ve been waiting for. 
th (1)

[1] Dare not Linger: the Presidential Years. Nelson Mandela & Mandla Langa (2017).p. 31. https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374134716

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kisXBXBycn8

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BHOflzxPjI



February 14th 2018

“Dear John
I have a need to know that I am looking after the wellbeing of my brothers and sisters of all species. I also have a need for respect.
It is hard for me to meet these needs from your continued lack of response to the letter and gifts that I sent in a spirit of goodwill and friendship during the first week of the New Year. I feel sad and concerned.

I wrote requesting your leadership in an area which I genuinely I believe is of importance to all of us citizens of the Far North and I have many fellow Far North residents following the outcome with interest as they too await your response.

Let us work together on behalf of Papatuanuku/Mother Earth and for the good of the people alive now, our ancestors and the people that will follow.

I look forward to hearing that FNDC will embrace the Ecostar certification department by department, completing this throughout by Easter 2018.


Jane B ”


Hon. John Carter
Far North District Council
Memorial Avenue
Private Bag 752

3rd January 2018

Dear John

Will Ecostar certification for each FNDC office be your New Year’s resolution?

I hear more and more concern – from people in the Far North both in person and online.  People are becoming more anxious about the amount of rubbish they create, that they see dumped in the bush, that they see being burnt and wasted and how there is a lack of focus by FNDC on helping we the people of the Far North to create less rubbish. People want to change, people are concerned, people up here care about the whenua and moana.

If we the people of the Far North are to move forward this year in embracing kaitiakitanga and becoming a region connected to and regenerating our natural world, we need leadership.  Who better to lead this than you?

John, I ask that you resolve to take a new year’s step to have the FNDC lead by example with each FNDC office and department team achieving the Ecostar Award, beginning with your own. Is there any reason each office and department can’t achieve this by Easter 2018 if you both role model and request?

http://ecostar.org.nz/ :  “The Far North District Council is committed to waste minimisation in the region and has set targets for the area to reach in its Waste Minimisation Strategy.  To help reach those goals the Council has initiated the ecostar award to promote and recognise achievements in this area. The ecostar provides organisations with a structured process for the development, implementation and maintenance of a waste minimisation plan. The ecostar can then be gained by successfully passing an on-site audit from the Council’s approved, third-party verifiers, CBEC EcoSolutions. Current and certified members can then use their ecostar credentials as proof of their progress in implementing an effective waste minimisation plan and working towards sustainability.”

I sincerely believe that FNDC staff teams will come on board because buried deep within the spirit of each person here in the Far North is concern for our natural world. Every Far North resident needs and deserves the natural joy that comes from the guardianship of Papatuanuku and to jointly care for the future wellbeing of the next generation. We want to be known as respectful guardians and caring citizens and no longer want to accept being branded as powerless ‘council workers’ or mindless ‘consumers’.   Our hearts and spirits are ready to open to a more meaningful future and we need to be shown the way step by step.

I am enclosing two small gifts for you personally, a re-usable coffee cup so you never again need to accept a disposable cup and a desk top waste box because removing the waste bin under your desk is a smart first step to focus on how to reduce your landfill footprint from your office. My wish is that each of these will daily support you and remind you of how role modelling small steps is how social change starts.

As FNDC role models its commitment to kaitiakitanga by achieving Ecostar accreditation office by office, department by department, I firmly believe it will become the start of wider change. We the people of the Far North need guidance to move from creating rubbish to valuing and looking after resources  – we are ready for change, we want to change, we need you to lead us.

Meanwhile, with two others, I am working to put a water drinking and bottle refilling fountain into the Paihia waterfront to reduce plastic bottle purchases. We are doing what we can, can you please do your bit too?

Hei konā mai i roto i ngā mihi /Goodbye for now & thank you


(letter as mailed to Hon John Carter this week).