Mark Skelding: Thames-Coromandel, Localised NZ communities which connect and prosper towards a shared outcome

Interviewed by Tim LynchJune 6, 2018
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This dialogue with Mark is a continuation of interviewing New Zealanders around the country based on ‘pulling the strings of localised community together’
and linking them across the nation.

Mark is a passionate change agent and realises the importance of having robust and resilient communities founded around: Farmers markets, permaculture,
organics, green dollars and Time banks as well as building shelter and sustainable buildings, holistic health, homeschooling, mensheds and women’s
cooperatives, plus other regenerative initiatives.

That all of these connect the community into a vibrant, self reliant organism.

For many years in some cases decades there has been a growing awareness by NZers - especially away from the largest cities - that in small towns and villages
across the country, people still have/feel a sense of community.

That people seeking both better connection, and environmental quietness away from the pace and size of urban conglomeration have gravitated more to a smaller
town and or rural setting, that is also accompanied by being close to the sea or ocean in some way.

So in apologising in advance, I trust that you forgive me and advise me accordingly if I have omitted your town, village of region below:

From Kaitaia up North, to Kerikeri, Hokianga, Whangerei and Kaiwaka.

To Thames Coromandel, Raglan over to Gisborne, the Hawkes Bay Hastings region.,and to Wanganui, and Masterton.

To the South Island of Nelson, Motueka, Takaka and Golden Bay, to Kaikura and Lyttelton, the West Coast and further South - people have steadily colluded
together to build a cooperative commercial understanding around markets. Where today farmers markets are a key hub to community getting together to
cooperate in other ways as the threads of community tie in so many other aspects from holistic health, to shared working bees, permaculture, organics,
recycling time banks etc see list at the bottom of this article.

Thames - Coromandel

Mark's interview on what is happening in the Thames Coromandel starts with how people are addressing housing and shelter.

Having many differing forms of life style, and various forms of building homes - Cobb houses , rammed earth, straw bale, lots of permaculture permutations
- people living ‘off grid’ and largely self sufficient - other people living semi on grid whilst developing organic businesses - green businesses,
lots of sole traders - that is going on at one level.

At another level, also grappling with how to connect-up with other parts of the community that are more traditional - who have come there to retire and
live in peace by the sea but are now becoming alarmed by sea level rise and climate change - eroding roads as over the last 18 months massive storms
have come up the Firth of Thames and the Coast road up to Coromandel has been taken out. Plus lots of flooding on the other coast and at Whitianga
as well.

There are some intentional communities, as well as spiritual communities that are fairly well integrated into the larger community running meditation courses
as well as extending into town as a shop presence.

There are people looking at ways of cooperating to group together on the land and adding tiny houses etc.

But in a sharing of care, Mark mentions there is also now on the other side of the situation about 30 homeless people living in Thames - sleeping in cars
- or sleeping out at the back of the community garden etc and some of them have various addictions of some kind or another so there is still growing
challenges around the dispossessed that needs to be addressed.

Why? Because these people don’t have that sense of community and connection … and access to the resources to be able to change their lives - like
to buy some land you are talking half a million dollars so there is definitely a different social strata around different degrees of wealth, resources
and affluence involved. That amidst all this, correct choices have been taken.

Mark shares from a humorous perspective how the people strive for success and then laughingly asks how does one define success?

The current global and national economic system is not working

He says how do we equate neo liberal economics with half a dozen people sleeping in a car outside your house …?

That neo liberal perspectives are so interwoven into our society that often we don’t realise how embedded we really are, inside this economic model. Like
a goldfish may have no concept of water!

And we need to gently bring the harshness of the neo liberal economic system to our leadership so that we can see what it is doing - especially in regard
to the larger environment and its ongoing social implications

Community Care and Commitment

The Thames Community Centre has gathered information and research on the needs around homelessness in the town plus the wider community.

That addressing housing of those needing shelter and they have opened dialogue with a local housing company to see how they can build quality budget housing
for these people - (Listen) Rent affordable home - a lovely initiative.

Subject covered in this wide ranging interview

Transition Town groups are working closely with the local authorities - in putting forward a vision - and saying wouldn’t it be great if ….? One
example is turning an area in midtown Thames into its own square. Someplace where people can walk around, sell produce, meet each other a little like
the agora the marketplace in ancient Athens.

Project Lyttelton comes up.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Redefining what it is to be an individual these days.

This interview is of a caring and considerate person

Future proofing the future?

Mark gives a 'Shout out' for Tim Grafton the CEO of the NZ Insurance Council who has been going around the Coastline communities talking about climate
change and what we need to be aware of. Originally he was taking to the business community but more and more he has been communicating with ordinary

The Thames Transition Town community brought him to Thames where the conversation will inevitably focus on the future where we will have insurance companies
saying we are now going to stop offering insurance to homes and businesses that are too close to sea level. But Mark says we need to start a nationwide
conversation to have this conversation now, so that we can creatively find a way through this and innovate our way into a more safer future

Also included in this conversation are Maori, Hapu and iwi and working together to successfully replicate that model of cooperation.

Calling for humour and joy in among our daily work and challenges

That there is a big insulation program happening for old cottages for no cost - listen

Community gardens - how a disempowered person found themselves with a purpose

Heart politics, that it is a summer conference that has been going since 1984 that is very inspiring.

Anchor points - what are they? listen

We are part of a interconnected larger ‘system’ and we are waking up to our reason for living.

We had lots of laughing during this interview 🙂

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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'

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