A Reflection from Martin Large

When Carolyn Hughes, chair of The Land Trust NZ, invited me to come on a surprise lecture tour, I felt privileged to visit such a mythical country. However, it was also a challenge to update my thinking on community farm and land trusts as well as Steiner’s thinking on social threefolding for New Zealand. Firstly, affordable access to farmland, and affordable housing are both hot NZ issues. The more land is treated as a commodity to be bought and sold on the market, the more landed wealth will concentrate in fewer hands and the higher the rents and prices. Secondly, many New Zealand people have had enough of the market fundamentalism of Rogernomics, and people are looking for an alternative societal vision which pushes back the market from politics and from culture, yet has practical Number 8 wire results.

One golden moment was visiting a beautiful Marae in Te Papa Museum in Wellington, where two young artists told me the story of how this Marae had been taken from their people, how their Tohunga had been once suppressed, about the mauri life force which was imaged like the Celtic spirals on my ring, and when they saw my sketches of Mangarara Farm, they told me how they traditionally ‘sang the landscape’ rather than painting it. Another was meeting Mike Paku at the inspiring, lively AS in NZ conference at the beautiful Taikura School, Hawke’s Bay. He told us many things… that if we look after the land, it will look after us, it is by our rivers that we know who we are, that health is spiritual, soul, physical and environmental. How wise and refreshing of the conference organisers to welcome such dialogue with other streams similarly engaged!

This was as much a learning and research, as a lecture tour for me. I learned that the first people had no concept of ‘absolute land ownership’, rather that of customary, multiple land uses that were collectively governed by iwis or tribes. They were custodians of the land. So, the Land Trust NZ offers a transformative solution to NZ land challenges, an alternative to the tragic land grab story. The Land Trust New Zealand team are impressive, building a close working relationship with the NZ Biodynamic Association, with farmers, related organisations and food marketing businesses. Moreover, they work from a place of deeply held earthcaring, regenerative and BD values. They listen and learn from a profound analysis of the NZ land story. It could be that the Land Trust NZ, by drawing practically on Maori land custodianship, commons thinking, Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, and Steiner’s biodynamic, money and social threefolding insights can help transform the NZ land story and encourage more biodynamic, regenerative farming.

Another golden moment was being invited by Peter Garlick and Ellen Appleton of Motueka Rudolf Steiner School to visit their stunningly beautiful 35 acres, future school farm, walk the land with Carolyn, and share their practical, visionary land use design. Community building around such ‘cathedral projects’, with cultural and educational renewal, a community connected biodynamic school farm is an inviting window on the emerging social future, as the bleak, neoliberal wasteland breaks down.

References: www.thelandtrustnz.com

Large, M., and Briault, S., Free, Equal and Mutual, Rebalancing Society for the Common Good, Stroud, 2018, www.hawthornpress.com, December/January 2017-18