A successful conference!

Our inaugural conference was a great success… so far. We believe it was the first Northland event to bring together people from diverse interests in food production, distribution, consumption, diet and health, hospitality and education specifically to focus on the move towards more sustainable food systems.


The opening powhiri at Te Punu o te Mātauranga and welcome from our Mayor, Sheryl Mai, set the scene. We have the great bounty of presentations from visiting experts – Anne Palmer from Johns Hopkins University and Professor Barbara Burlingame from Massey University.

The benefits of connecting with other people that share aspirations towards a stronger local food economy was a common focus of feedback of those attending. Since the conference, there has been a continuation of discussions in Loomio and further connections made. Channel North is in the process of creating a range of videos about the conference and these will be available here soon.

A feature of the conference was the superb food, mostly sourced locally and beautifully cooked and presented by Ian Sturt and his team.

For the conference to be judged a success, we will need to be able to look back at the end of the year and see significant progress on the goals currently being formulated.

Thanks to our sponsors, enabling us to keep the cost of the conference affordable. NorthTec provided the venue and great support, Northland Inc supported our planning and organised for Channel North to film the event. Thanks to the Far North District Council and Te Tai Tokerau PHO for support through the Kai Ora Fund. And thanks to all of the cafes, restaurants and food sellers that supported with food. Please support the business that support local food – there logos are below.


Change will come at the local and regional levels

There have been some great results in our local body elections. I am happy that Sheryl Mai has been re-elected in Whangarei. She is a supporter of Local Food Northland, hosting our first formal meeting in her office and is a strong supporter of the Whangarei Growers Market. Tricia Cutforth has been re-elected. She campaigned tirelessly and successfully for the Council to make Whangarei District the first Fair Trade District in New Zealand. It is also good to see Greg Innes re-elected to the WDC – another strong supporter of local food.


Sheryl Mai fielding congratulations on her re-election (image from The Northern Advocate).

There is a new Mayor in Kaipara and John Carter has been re-elected in the far North. I would welcome thoughts from residents in these districts about the outcome of their elections. Future posts will explore the election outcomes for the District Health Boards and the Regional Council.

Local body politicians are more likely than national politicians to drive change towards more sustainable food systems. They tend to be more pragmatic and less ideologically bound and will respond to local concerns. The 2015 World Cities Summit Mayors Forum in New York ended with a strong declaration on sustainability.

The Meeting of the Minds Website outlines how mayors in the U.S. are creating sustainable connected cities.

“Cities are the places where we live and interact. We expect our city leaders to keep them healthy, safe and vibrant. Mayors fill the potholes, provide needed services to people and grow the economy. Even more, the nation’s mayors are leading the charge to develop sustainable, livable, smart cities”. from Meeting of the Minds.

Back in New Zealand, Gareth Morgan accuses Mayoral candidates of being “asleep at the wheel” on the junk food problem. Their are encouraging exceptions. Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese has been re-elected. Her she is talking about sugary drinks.

It is said that we get the government we deserve. More local body elections, and eventually national politicians will support the move to more food systems as more of us raise our own expectations and champion the issue.