The Lyttelton community in New Zealand was at the epicentre of the recent earthquake that has devastated much of Christchurch.
At this time, we have been blessed that just two in our community have died as a result of the earthquake. Rocks have been falling from the hills. Our people are OK, but the adrenalin is pumping – it feels like what it must be like to be in a war zone. The port is badly damaged. All our treasured old buildings have collapsed – we built in brick and stone after the 1875 fire as our great-grandparents didn’t want timber burning again. Now we know we have to build a new heritage – and that will be around sustainable buildings and sustainable ways of being.
We are starting to gather ideas/information for a way forward.
Lyttelton is the port town of Christchurch. It is nestled in the harbour of a long extinct volcano. It is joined to the city by road and rail tunnels and two road passes. The population is 3000. Although many people who live in Lyttelton move into the city daily for work and education, there is a strong sense of community. It is not just a dormitory town.
There is a strong grass roots community group, Project Lyttelton, which has a vision of creating a vibrant and sustainable community. Some of the projects that have been initiated by this volunteer run organisation include the Lyttelton Time Bank, the Lyttelton Farmers Market, community gardens, energy projects, The Lyttelton News, festivals, on-going education, welcome bags… Look at our website and see what we have been doing. www.lyttelton.net.nz
As a group we are well aware of the global issues of peak oil, climate change, financial collapses and all the other peak whatevers! We consciously work at a local level on these global issues.
Although this isn’t directly a carbon footprint issue, we could be seen a bit like Cuba as it inspired many by how a community solves issues – there with the embargo on oil. It could be interesting to watch our community recreate itself with a mind to doing that sustainably.
What we have in Lyttelton to build on is an incredible community – where else four days after a major disaster would you find the community celebrating itself with an all day party! Local musicians, bands, belly dancers, hula hoopers, clowns, free coffee and hot chocolate and food. During this there would be breaks for announcements as more streets were being evacuated. As a community we know we have to touch base with each other. There are so many hugs and kisses.
We just coincidentally had the Navy in town – so they have been feeding us.
I have been gathering the stories for our local paper – not the stories of mayhem – they are easy to find – turn on the TV. I have been asking the question ‘What do you find great about this community?’ to reflect back to ourselves who we are. We will have opinion pieces from as many people as possible of what they are imagining our future might look like.
Lyttelton set up New Zealand’s first Time Bank. We have been promoting that widely throughout New Zealand and are in the process of setting up a national body to ease the take up of this marvellous complementary money system nationwide. A small group has a collective saving system which lends interest free to its members. Each experiment like this we publicize in our newspaper to spread the idea of thinking differently. I guess the national Time Bank development might pause for a wee while – but not for long. We crave to get back to a normal way of being. I actually made blackberry jam from fruit from the community garden yesterday – finding a couple of unbroken jars to put that in.
The road tunnel was closed for some time – now open for essential traffic and local residents, one of the passes has been closed. This happened too in the 4 September earthquake, so we now know how important it is to be resilient as we can easily be cut off from the world. We had a CSA scheme last year, but we hadn’t cracked the sustainability aspect of it, we need to explore this more and learn from what didn’t work for us.
We have a challenging journey ahead of us. You can follow how we are doing www.lyttelton.net.nz Some readers may want to help us via the donate button.