2016 has been a big year of learning and development for us. We started the year developing our Trust Deed and a Business Plan to try to form our ideas into goals that we could share with others, and to take to potential funders.
We stated our objects as:
- To promote and establish community-led sustainable food systems for Northland that produce, add value, market and distribute locally grown nutritious food that supports the health and well-being of the community and the local economy while enhancing the natural environment;
- To contribute to a connected and cohesive, prosperous Northland by:
- Enhancing the resilience into the Northland economy
- Working with Northland marae to rebuild food production capacity at an Iwi and Hapu level
- Stemming the leakage of wealth from the region iv. Rebuilding local economies within the region
- Addressing food security and poverty at a community level
- Supporting the provision and distribution of healthy, locally produced fresh food at a community level through a range of channels
- Enhancing employment opportunities at a local community level
- Creating stronger supply and processing capability for value-added goods and exports.
- To accomplish the above utilising a “social enterprise” model with appropriate governance and asset locks to best serve a system that aspires to support local needs while operating on enterprise values.
The objects and plan was very comprehensive – perhaps too comprehensive in retrospect! As visionaries, we saw the big picture of where relocalisation of our food could go, but we also saw all the diverse parts that needed to come together to make this happen. So our business plan included five interrelated goals:
- A National Engagement project to engage with thought leaders in local food throughout NZ
- Investigating the feasibility of a value added processing hub
- A pilot “food hub” whereby a number of growers would be linked with a number of cafe’s/restaurants to establish a pattern for large scale substitution of out of region and imported food with produce from local growers
- Software development to support the above
- An administration function to support the above functions
Our first hurdle was obtaining charitable status for our Trust. Charities Services came back with multiple objections – mostly to do with that because one of our outcomes would be enhancing the Northland economy we could not therefore be charitable! It reminds me of the old saying about “give man a fish” versus “teach a man to fish” – obviously only giving fish away is classed as charitable!
We were unwilling to compromise and change our Trust Deed as it is very important to us that we try to build true resilience and sustainability that doesn’t rely on perpetual external funding. The outcome is that we registered as a Charitable Trust under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, but we do not have charitable status under the Charities Act 2005 – a technicality that means that any profit is potentially taxable. But registering as a Charitable Trust means that we have restrictions in our Trust Deed disallowing any distribution of profits or assets to the Trustees (myself, Jeff Griggs and Peter Bruce) or related parties. We are firmly in the social enterprise/not-for-profit camp.
The second disappointment was that none of our initial funding applications were successful. We applied to a number of “big funders” for around $160,000 for the above projects. Initial discussions were positive but being a new organisation it was probably inevitable that we had to gain a track record before being supported by the large agencies.
We did however have success with a funding application to the FNDC/Te Tai Tokerau PHO Kai Ora Fund. So even though we had not been funded to nearly the degree we would have liked we continued to do what we had planned but in a more limited way.
We scaled back our “National Engagement” to the idea of a research project in the local Northland community around the idea of developing a “regional food plan” and perhaps a “food policy council”. Our research had indicated that other parts of the world with effective local food movements had some form of these things in place. Out of this came Peter’s research project “Pathways to Sustainable Food Systems” (supported by Northtec) completed in December.
Through the Kai Ora project and the funding from them we also held a series of gatherings across the North to discuss these issues. Peter’s research also engaged key people from across the region one on one. It also resulted in connections with overseas and national specialists, and the idea of a local food conference including these people developed – now happening in February 2017 in Whangarei. So with very limited funds the National Engagement project is happening and happening strongly.
Another unexpected boost came later in the year from Vegetable Growers Northland Inc. Peter and Jeff had presented at an event where the secretary was present and she enthusiastically suggested that they may be able to sponsor some of our work. Again this was a smaller amount compared to what we had originally asked for from the big funders but enough for Sean to start work to start work on our database/website that should be operational shortly.
Our stakeholder engagement continues to grow, including us being able to do a presentation at the Northland DHB “Grand Round” in November, building relationships and linking local food to basic health provision.
Then this last month we have started discussions with another party about collaborating around a cooperative “food hub” concept, which would potentially include the value added project as well.
So although nothing has worked out exactly as we envisaged we are on track, and our networks and knowledge are much broader. Our local food conference in February promises to be highly significant and is being widely supported by some key stakeholders: Northtec are providing the venue, Northland Inc are providing some sponsorship, and we have Anne Palmer from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore speaking on the North American food movement experience, and Professor Barbara Burlingame, of Massey University on Local solutions to global problems. Massey University are also sending a number of representatives.
2017 promises to be an exciting year as we see the fruit of some of our efforts and continue to build alliances, networks and tools for the relocalisation of our food networks in Northland.
Clive McKegg, December 2016