Where: Nelson, South Island, New Zealand
When: I visited on 12th January 2015. The Centre was set up in 1976 and is now the oldest environment centre in New Zealand.
Who: I met with Karen Driver who has been working at the Centre for 9 years. She is one of five managers, focused on waste minimisation. There are six other part-time staff at this site and two managers plus a whole team at the reuse and recycle site. There are 25 employees and around 1900 hours of volunteer time given in total.
What: The Centre is a social enterprise, involved in issues related to food, energy, waste (re-use and recycling) and climate change. They engage in numerous of activities including managing an ‘op shop’ (charity shop), behaviour change and education programmes, lobbying, working with other organisations on particular programmes (e.g. supporting groups such as Friends of Matai, hosting the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme, working with other Environment Centres around the country to share experiences and resources), training and workshops in the local community, and supporting businesses to reduce their environmental footprint. They are focused predominantly on providing solutions in the Nelson and Tasman region but they are also significantly involved in a number of national and international initiatives too e.g. partnering 350.org, steering the estsblishment of a national food waste reduction campaign, and so on.
Why: The aim is to create a sustainable resilient community for all and to “be an inspirational and respected voice on key global and local environmental challenges to the planet; to inform, build awareness, and to assist our community in making appropriate, practical responses to these challenges, and to support environmental education for all.”
Impacts/success: They ran 57 workshops with schools last year; they have worked with a number of builders in the Nelson area so that they now have recycling bins on site. As an example, 15% of the waste produced was cardbosrd, which now all gets recycled. They aim to get this to become a normal behaviour on building sites in the region and also work at the design level to reduce waste throughout the process.
Further info: http://www.nec.org.nz/nec-home-page/about-nec/
Personal reflections: I was particularly interested to learn that even though the vision of the Centre remains unchanged, the scope of activities has altered quite significantly over time from a focus on political lobbying and campaigning at the start to now working with councils and partnering with other organisations to achieve practical action and culture change. From where I was standing, it is thriving.