by Janet Stephenson
My first encounter with the Waitati community was in 2007, when I brought a small group of young planning students to meet with some Waitati residents. They were asked to find out first hand about the community’s perspectives on the future sustainability of the settlement. Climate change and energy security were top issues, as well as food and transport. The students were given free rein to develop creative ideas about how the community could respond to these challenges. Then we came along to the Waitati Hall one evening, where the students each gave a brief presentation. I was absolutely astonished at how many people turned up – around 60, I recall. The community members took a kindly interest in the (sometimes wacky) ideas that the students came up with, but underlying this was a strong sense of a collective purpose and urgency to take action on sustainability issues. I came away from the session with the feeling that this community could do something extraordinary.