Care for the land, care for the people, weave the people together
These ideas are central to the ethos of The Nelson Tasman Climate Forum. Linking individuals, households, civil society, organisations, businesses, councils and iwi around urgent, strategic action on climate change. With governments responding slowly and a need for more timely policy change, one woman decided something needed to be done. Former Forum Chair and founder, Julie Nevin recognised the need for a community group that could come together to address three of the big issues preventing progress.
Firstly there needed to be widespread awareness of the problem of climate change across all sectors of society. The Forum was going to need effective climate change communicators, leaders and educators. Then there was the issue of policy. Shortcomings in existing policies would have to be identified, with new policies being proposed and drafted.
The Forum would require the knowledge and expertise of key people in order to describe these policies. Lastly, political will and the right people to support and implement these policies was crucial for any change to occur. The Forum would need to play a strong role in forging alliances with and within local government and support its efforts to bring about effective change.
The woman who made it all possible - Julie Nevin
Our founder and Co-Chair for the first year of the Forum’s existence. Julie has since passed the baton to current Co-Chair Joanna Santa Barbara.
With citizens’ assemblies gaining in popularity and having success in many European countries and with governments increasingly looking to include public involvement in their processes, Julie quickly found there was a strong appetite for such a group in the region. With the help of her colleagues in Zero Carbon Nelson Tasman, another citizens’ climate action group, Julie now had the support she needed to promote the concept of the Forum and apply to councils for funding.
Tasman District Council were immediately receptive to the idea, floated during a climate action workshop which Zero Carbon Nelson Tasman was attending. TDC went on to include participation in the Forum as part of their own climate action plan, a commitment they still honour today.
With this approval in principle from TDC under their belt, the small but determined group then applied successfully to Nelson City Council for funding to establish the Forum. The initial funding was used to pull together a working group to design and launch the forum, using the quadruple helix model to ensure a good balance of members from council, business and academia, with a few climate activists thrown in to represent community and to keep things interesting.
The Forum Charter came into being, and with input from local iwi, a commitment was made to work alongside tangata whenua as kaitiaki of the rohe and as partner under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The new Forum was going to need a Chair, and with just two toddlers at home, Julie felt she would have enough energy to take on the task. Guided by Julie’s strategic thinking, and fuelled by endless cups of tea and homemade organic muffins, the Forum was eventually launched in February 2020.
Our Current Co-Chair Joanna Santa Barbara
Joanna Santa Barbara Co-Chairs our Forum with a wellbeing focussed and pastoral style of leadership.
The Forum immediately clarified its purpose and values and its organisational structures and processes such as its consensus decision making process. It also began the journey of creating its first regional climate action plan, published a year later. The Forum was organised into a set of working groups, each focussing on different topics such as What we make, buy and waste, Supporting nature and storing carbon, and How we move ourselves and our stuff around. This way the Forum could be made more accessible to new members who wanted to engage with specific areas of interest.
Today the Forum has 15 active groups all working within their various fields to lessen the impacts of climate change, to influence others to take action, and to give a home to those among us who are concerned about the impact this phenomenon is having on the only place we have to call home….the earth. These groups provide comfort, kinship, hope and above all the means to weave us together and make us effective agents against climate change. So many people are concerned about climate change and don’t really know what to do about it. If you can be part of organised collective action your influence can be outsized.
Everybody contributing their own strengths means that collectively we have all the strengths that we need. Julie stood down as chair in 2021 to take up a position with the Green Party as strategic policy advisor. The baton was passed to Joanna Santa Barbara whose pastoral and wellbeing focussed style of leadership ensures that the Forum continues to be a positive force for strategic climate action.