Working together—talking partnerships

“The Sustainable Development Goals provide a pretty good guiding system as to what the things are you need to discuss for a sustainable future. No single person has all the answers to solve all these things,” says Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington sustainability director Andrew Wilks.

In the final episode of our sustainability-related podcast, Dr Sarah-Jane O’Connor sits down with Andrew, as well as senior adviser in the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, Rhonda Thompson to discuss the role and challenges of partnerships in sustainability, and the role of the Living Pā construction project and what it means for the future of the University.

Andrew says challenges in sustainability are complex and require people with different perspectives to come together to be able to address the issues. “I view that role of partnerships as being how we can expand our impact much wider than just for the little immediate team around us.” He explains how this works for the University on our campuses and within Wellington.

Rhonda acknowledges New Zealand is in a unique position in terms of using partnership models from the West and the Pacific. “And this can give us an opportunity to synthesise them, to give us new ways of relating with the national environment. They’re notions we can take to global partnerships.”  This approach also allows us to “weave back layers” of the impacts of colonisation, says Rhonda.

“Sustainability is where modern peoples’ heads are at, and I think the maturing of our bicultural identity is also,” she says.  Andrew agrees, lauding the growth of enrolments in sustainability-focused courses, while noting the fact New Zealand’s “clean green image” is a still-common but increasingly inaccurate portrayal of the country.

“We’re becoming more and more urbanised and more and more divorced from all the good that nature provides us. There's still plenty of work for us to do here in Aotearoa to make sure that we are looking after the natural environment as we should be,” says Andrew.

Rhonda explains the Living Pā “will talk to our values and our principles, and who we want to be as a people. And what we find in the Living Building Challenge certification is a framework that supports us to enable that purpose.”

Andrew agrees: “It's now getting to the point where there are other people that are sharing in that [sustainability] ambition, I think particularly around the Living Building Challenge certification and the way that aligns to Māori values. The sustainability agenda and Māori values are so closely aligned, this was the perfect project to bring those two together.”

Rhonda says, “It is important we have spaces where we can come together and think critically about things like what does it mean to be mana whenua, tangata whenua. When our students experience the Living Pā and the wharenui, they will know, because of what is modelled, that their mana emanates from the land. When they look after it, they can rightly say they are a person of mana, and a person of the land.”

Listen to Rhonda and Andrew discuss the Living Pā and other sustainability partnerships in the final episode of the sustainability podcast.