Samuel Mann was in the local paper recently announcing the Living Campus project we are starting up here. We’re aiming to be developing sustainable production systems and living/working spaces with community education value. There will be produce gardens for medicinal purposes, fibers pigments and other materials, eatables, natives, functional.. all designed with sustainability and educational value in mind, hopefully following permaculture design principles as closely as possible.

While the project IS very exciting, and I love the fact that I am working in an organisation that is at last taking bold steps in this direction, a few things in the article sit a bit off for me. “First for Australasia” comes across as a bit of an arrogant/ignorant statement in my view (I know Sam is not, and the reporter probably quoted a bit out of context), but there are many projects in the region that are very significant, such as the CERES project I visited in Melbourne recently, not to mention some significant efforts in New Zealand. I think it will be a stronger statement if in future we acknowledged the efforts going on around us, especially those that we can say are inspiring our own efforts, and thus make ourselves well grounded.

It also concerns me a little that the CEO was quoted as saying that WITH national funding we can have this project up within a year, or WITHOUT national funding in 2 years. [correction. The quote is: “Government funding would enable the Polytech to “break the back” of the project more quickly, meaning it could be completed in 2 years. Without the funding it was likely to take 5-7 years…] Its great that we are going ahead with this with or without external funding, and the CEO was probably referring to just the set up time, but I reckon we should be talking big[ger] time lines when setting expectations for our sustainability projects. The CERES project, which from what I can tell is Australia’s flagship in terms of environmental and sustainability education, has taken 25 years to get to where it is today.

I think if we hope to get our project right, then we are going to have to spend 2 years just strengthening our engagement with the community and projects around us, drawing in the many experienced people in Dunedin to participate and inform our plans. I’m sure we are doing this, but we probably should mention our connections and references more in things like this newspaper report.

In terms of the importance of genuine community involvement, there were a lot of messages for this in the video interview I recorded with Noel Blencowe, one of the CERES governers.

I haven’t had any feedback on my plan to build connections through events in our community, but I plan to represent the proposal to the managers myself and see if I can’t get resources and approval to lead it, as I think it could compliment the Living Campus project quite a lot.

But the main thing is, its great to see our Living Campus project getting big bold committing statements behind it. That’s what we need.