Blueskin Bay - Community Resilience in Action

IMG_1586.JPGBlueskin Bay is a low-lying alluvial plain through which the Waitati river meanders and intermittently floods. It’s home to a modest coastal community of 2,800, 20k from Dunedin – where Scott Willis has lived for 20 years. He is the guiding spirit of the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust which has been working for almost ten years to set up a blueprint for resilience in the face of the uncertainties of climate extremes.

Scott spoke at our Climate Declaration’s Dunedin launch and his talk provides an insight into the activities and values of the BRCT. Here it is:

“We have entered the long emergency. Our Trust, the Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust, was born in 2008 out of a community desire to take charge of our future, because we can’t wait: we need to act. 

“Since then we’ve insulated homes more than 400 homes, worked to establish the Cosy Homes Trust, helped get local food initiatives going, facilitated low carbon transport… 

“We’re working at present on three important projects to reduce emissions, care for our environment and to invest in a clean green future.

“To replace the Huntley power station, get Fonterra off coal and electrify our economy, we need an additional 85,000 Giga Watt hours of electricity annually, all from renewable generation. That will give us electric transport and replace industrial heat with electricity. Our proposed Blueskin turbine at Blueskin Bay will generate over 7 Giga Watt hours per year. It will also build grid resilience and support community initiatives, such as: 

“Our smart grid project which, will make local grid market transactions possible, so that residents can buy, sell and gift clean, local electricity. It will allow residents to use the electricity produced locally to power homes. It will enable an interactive local energy system, resilient to disasters. 

“The Climate Safe House project is about ensuring we support each other and continue to thrive in our changing climate. We aim to build climate safe housing and avoid climate ghettoization. Homes need to be healthy, affordable, energy efficient, modular, and transportable. We not only now have to address fuel poverty, but also climate poverty. 

“These projects excite me because they’re highly collaborative local climate solutions. Climate solutions can also address other areas of community need so that no one falls short on life’s essentials while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot the Earth's carrying capacity.

“We all know what needs to be done. It is all technically possible. It is only a change in mind-set and in motivation that is needed. And human creativity is a fully renewable resource.

“Working together with others who share the same passion is inspiring and motivational. All walks of life are represented here today and we need broad engagement. It’s clear that actions like a smart grid, a community turbine and climate safe housing, and services like Cosy Energy Advice aren’t just climate solutions, they’re also about social justice, poverty eradication, and replenishing our natural commons.

“We live in a time of the greatest opportunity to do things differently, to grab the future, and to transform society. And we will do it because we must, but also because we can.” 

  • Perhaps the most significant achievements of the BRCT are as much local as their influence on attitudes and awareness in Dunedin city’s establishment. Scott chairs the energy committee at the Otago Chamber of Commerce. The quiet process of “Blueskinning the city”, as he calls it, has seen the establishment of the Cosy Homes Trust with city partners and the Chamber of Commerce’s switch from advocating exploration for deep sea oil to supporting renewables.
  • “A Perspective on Climate Change Adaptation on Planning in Waitati – Final report from BRCT to DCC, May 2014” is worth a look. Here’s a sentence:

“It is only through providing real avenues for people to be actively involved in future planning and normalizing climate change adaptation that we can hope to avoid a disorganized run-down of services and infrastructure as a result of the changing environment.”