LONGWOOD LOOP RESILIENCE TOUR
The Longwood Loop project is Robyn Guyton’s soul-child, coming from her love of Southland, the stalwart people who live there and the unique features of its land and settlements. This Western Southland loop route around the Longwood mountains passes through at least 15 small economically depressed country towns – all with cheap land and an over-supply of housing. The loop includes Riverton, Monowai, Orawia, Ohai, Nightcaps, Waireo, Otautau, Fairfax and Thornbury and Tuatapere, where the Last light Lodge’s amazing garden and orchards supply most of the food for its restaurant.
In contrast to the Ministry of Primary Industries centralised ‘think big, invest big, produce big and export overseas’ strategies to solve the rural downturn, this is an economic and social regeneration initiative taps into the unlimited opportunities for social enterprise and self-employment which exist in these places on the verge of ‘closing down’. Re-localising will be able to bring rejuvenation and resilience to our small country towns once again.
Practically stated, the Longwood Loop idea is for an electric truck to regularly pick up and drop off along the loop to each communities ‘depot’ eg bottled milk, artisan bread, knitted socks, vegetables, fruit, handmade gifts, wooden spoons, weekly Western Southland Newspaper, chemist prescriptions, mail, cut flowers. This electric passenger and transport vehicle system will connect 25 small rural communities of between 50 and 1,500 residents in the Deep South. Food growers and producers, craftspeople and cottage industries will have access to the low-cost transport loop. Their market will grow to 6,000 plus people without having to leave their township! Additionally, through most basic needs locally, people living on this loop will be more resilient to natural or man-made disasters.
Once it's thriving, this project is set to become a model for other impoverished bio-regions around the country. Southland could be leading the way in reducing our Carbon Footprint and inspiring other rural communities to do the same.
Robyn Guyton has been gestating this project for well over a year now. In November 2018 she and Robina McCurdy (Nelson Province) did a tour presenting around the Loop, where Robina shared similar-ish successful models around the world. There was a cautious excitement yet a lot of signups to Robyn’s idea, with a balance of signatures on the: “What can you offer?” and “What do you need?” sides of the survey paper. Robyn took a tour around the loop after the April Permaculture Hui – we hope that the Real Estate offices had some business from out-of-towners from that!
Since then there has been some further positive development, Robyn posted on the 19th June “The top 10 spaces for the Fintech funding received $20,000 plus mentoring and support and they were all from the North Island. There was only one other team that got a variation of the deal and they were from Southland. It was US!! We don't get the cash but we do get all the mentoring and support to develop our software which we are very grateful for. Two or three of us are going to Wellington 1-5th July, all expenses paid to start the 3 months programme”
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A community project of the South Coast Environment Society www.sces.org.nz