New Zealander of the Year: Finalist Q’s & A’s series

Department of Conservation —  24/03/2022

The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Ngā Tohu Pou Kōhure o Aotearoa honour those who use their passion to make our country a better place. The awards recognise a diverse range of Kiwis making a difference. Whether they’re aged 15 or 100, they’re contributing to grassroots communities or putting New Zealand on the world stage, they inspire us all.

Together with the Ministry for the Environment we have co-sponsored a new award category for 2022 – The Environmental Hero of the Year Award. celebrating people who are making significant contributions to help restore our natural environment and protect our unique species.

Huge congratulations to our first ever Environmental Hero of the Year Award finalists Hayden Smith, Charmaine Bailie and Jacqui Forbes!

After reading about their mahi we decided to dig a little bit deeper and get to know each one of them better, by finding out who they are and what makes them tick.

We’re starting off this mini-series with Jacqui Forbes – Here’s some of the Q & A’s from when we caught up with her.

Jacqui Forbes

Tell us about your project and what inspired you to start it?

The early conversations that started the Para Kore journey were initiated by Waikato Regional Council staffers who wanted to help the marae with waste minimisation.

I was working in education at Xtreme Zero Waste at the time and agreed to take part in the development and implementation of the project.

With the help of funding from the Sustainable Management Fund (SMF), a pilot programme took place the following year at Raglan’s Poihakena, Tūrangawaewae marae in Ngāruawāhia and Kirikiriroa Marae, the largest urban marae in Hamilton.

What made the project a success?

The Para Kore team strives to deliver life-enhancing outcomes for Māori through building a circular economy, increasing biodiversity, supporting climate justice and action, food sovereignty and regenerating ecosystems.

These are the sort of systems Māori were operating under pre-colonisation.

The circular economy is about designing waste out, keeping resources in use and regeneration, which has similarities to te ao Māori (Māori worldview) and other indigenous systems. The significance of the indigenous view is that it’s based on whakapapa, based on relationships, on being from the natural world – which we are. It’s not like a made-up fairy tale. We didn’t come from Mars or Venus, we are from here, we are from the natural world.

What advice would you give to other New Zealanders who are passionate about protecting our environment?

My advice would be to build Māori power. Building Māori power happens through us all speaking up and demanding Tiriti led everything, through recruitment of Māori, through learning the pūrākau and the colonisation stories of our rohe and through indigenous procurement. Building Māori power I feel is the strongest pathway to entrenching the values and the mindset critical for the restoration and regeneration of our Papatūānuku.

What’s next for your project?

Our focus will be equity going forward. Equity is another critical part of the puzzle for our long-term vision of Oranga Taiao, Oranga Marae, Oranga Whānau. We will be working hard to ensure that our education is accessible and relevant to lower income whānau.

Who’s your environmental hero?

Our kuia and koroua all throughout Aotearoa, who often have values of conservation and thrift which were passed down to them from their tupuna.

What is one thing that New Zealanders can do that would make a real difference to protecting our natural environment?

Stop buying. Build Māori power. Garden. Repair. Share. 

What does a flourishing environment look like to you?

All species (all our whanaunga) thriving with the mauri and mana that Papatūānuku gave to them (and which human beings have destroyed). 

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about Jacqui Forbes Para Kore Marae Incorporated, which educates and advocates from a Māori worldview for a world without waste.

The first ever winner of the Environmental Hero of the Year Award will be announced during the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Digital Gala on Thursday 31 March, 7:30pm on . Gather your whānau and friends and get ready to join us for a night of inspiring stories and incredible people.

For more information on how to watch the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Digital Gala, click here.

One response to New Zealander of the Year: Finalist Q’s & A’s series

    Janet Jones 01/04/2022 at 4:55 pm

    “Stop buying. Build Māori power. Garden. Repair. Share.” – I love this!