17 Jun 2008 - Aucklander, New Zealand

The greening of Grey Lynn

Neighbours in several Auckland suburbs dream of living in greener, friendlier communities, reports Andrea Jutson

As petrol prices surge to more than $2.12 a litre, groups of central-city Aucklanders are heading back to the past.

Dianna Tawharu and Carolyn Cox of Westmere have started Grey Lynn 2030, one of several new groups aimed at turning inner suburbs into ``transition towns'.

The idea started in the United Kingdom, where the town of Totnes has been turned into a greener, more self-sufficient place with neighbours sharing what they grow in their gardens.

``We're working as a community to get things done ourselves, rather than waiting for some organisation to do it for us,' Mrs Cox says. ``We're moving towards living a life more consciously.'

The pair say Westmere is already a neighbourly area, but more could be done to offset the costs and pollution of modern life.

Mrs Cox's family has just got rid of their second car - her husband now catches the bus to work.

As an environmental consultant, Mrs Cox is trying to practise what she preaches, walking her toddler to playgroup and sharing childcare with neighbours.

They are also in the process of renovating their house to become more energy-efficient.

Ms Tawharu thinks more people are doing what they can for the environment, and saving money to boot.

She rarely drives, working and doing most of her shopping within walking distance.

``I find I can get virtually everything I need in the Grey Lynn and Ponsonby area,' she says.

Now a core group of about 10 people have joined Grey Lynn 2030, and the wider community is about to be consulted on what they want their neighbourhoods to become.

They dream of becoming a town like Davis, California -bike-friendly and environmentally-conscious, with energy-saving houses, good public transport and a community garden with fruit and nut trees lining the streets for all to share.

Ms Tawharu wants to make sure the needs of the elderly are met as well.
``I think a lot of people feel guilty that they're not doing everything they could,' Mrs Cox says.

The pair stress they're not against the trappings of our consumer society.

Mrs Cox loves the vibrancy of shop-ridden Ponsonby as much as anyone else, but she emphasises that people need to buy quality rather than whatever is cheap.

It's about being more aware, she says.
Similar groups are also starting in Kingsland-Sandringham and Pt Chevalier.

Public meeting: Pt Chevalier School, Wednesday, June 18, 7.30pm. Information: www.transitiontowns.org.nz; Keith, ph 845 6525.