The southern lights: why the future is bright future in south Auckland

Publish Date : 18 May 2022

There are big plans afoot in south Auckland.

Plans for more Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses. More community-led enterprises. A world-class business park operated by mana whenua. To be carbon–neutral.

In short, plans for equality and a brighter future for all.

And it could certainly happen, if Tania Pouwhare and the changemakers at The Southern Initiative (TSI) have anything to do with it. TSI is championing a move to a ‘circular economy’, premised around stopping waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use through sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling; and regenerating natural systems. 

It’s a mindset shift that may sound daunting but talk to Tania and you’ll be enlivened, excited and enthusiastic about how a circular economy, fuelled by renewable energy and digital innovation, can transform the world.

Tania is the General Manager – Community and Social Innovation for TSI, an Auckland Council initiative that started a decade ago to ensure that as Tāmaki Makaurau became more prosperous, the benefits would be felt by all.

It's involved developing more inclusive and integrated approaches to work alongside communities to ensure greater access to the networks, programmes and platforms that develop the skills considered critical to the future of work: entrepreneurship, experimentation, creativity, critical thinking, reflection and problem-solving.

Programmes are designed for Māori and Pasifika peoples and rangatahi (youth), given that they make up a large proportion of south and west Auckland’s population, and emphasise the importance of whānau and mātauranga (Māori knowledge).  They’ve included, among many others:

  • Developing sustainable procurement practice, now used as a model around Aotearoa to diversify the businesses or social enterprises used in development partnerships.
  • Turning south Auckland into a Maker City with events where locals fix, upcycle and repurpose items or get young makers into shared projects including Mbots (where kids learn electronics and programming), coding, gaming, virtual reality and 3D printing.
  • The Uptempo partnership with Pasifika ‘aiga (family) to look at ways of making tangible progress along career paths ultimately leading to better paid work.

Now, TSI is readying itself for its biggest project - initiative, challenge, opportunity – to date:  Creating Shared Prosperity through the Circular Economy where Māori and Pasifika businesses will be “powered and scaled up” to play a leading role in transitioning Tāmaki Makaurau – indeed the whole of Aotearoa – to a clean, green and carbon-neutral economy.

But it’s not just an economic model.  It will go beyond that by ensuring that much-needed socio-economic equality is at the core of the businesses and innovations developed, so it becomes an “economy of mana” - one where people can live and thrive with dignity.

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