The Bay of Plenty has taken another step towards becoming a greener, more sustainable region by signing the National Park Cities charter in London this week.
The movement aims to apply national park principles and values to urban environments, promoting nature and re-wilding towns and cities as vital to health and wellbeing.
Envirohub Bay of Plenty representatives Laura Wragg and Geoff Canham have been in the UK to support the launch of London’s National Park City programme and to sign the charter.
“While the National Park City concept is what we are modelling our programme on, we want to take it beyond just one city to the whole Bay of Plenty,” says Laura.
“Essentially, we want to support and enable everyone living here to become greener.
"We’re aiming to give residents the opportunity to become more connected to nature and to enjoy all the benefits that go with that. It’s about creating more green spaces so we can all access nature closer to where we live and work.”
The first step in the process was undertaking stakeholder engagement across the region, a process that Laura says has been largely positive.
“People living across the whole region have told us they support the concept – they want greater biodiversity, more areas of green space and to see more native birds and plants in our cities.”
By signing the charter, the Bay of Plenty has shown its commitment to the principles of National Park Cities, though Laura says the programme will develop in the way that is best suited to the region.
“We will work with our communities and with Iwi to come up with the right name. This is about creating interest, educating and inspiring and allowing everyone to take part."
The benefits of healthier, greener towns and cities go beyond social and environmental.
“Urban green spaces and strong environmental commitments attract visitors,” says Kristin Dunne, Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive officer.
“Travellers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and seeking experiences that allow them to connect deeply to a place. We are seeking the types of visitors that will take part in local environmental initiatives, adding to our region’s regeneration and leaving our home a better place for future generations.”
The biophilic benefits (human affinity to interact or be closely associated with nature) – wellbeing, reduced stress and improved cognitive function are becoming more evident, says Laura.
“The more connected we are to nature and to each other, the healthier we’ll be as a region.”
The National Park Cities Charter includes committing to:
• a city which is greener in the long-term than it is today and where people and nature are better connected
• a city which protects its core network of parks and green spaces and where buildings and public spaces aren’t defined only by stone, brick, concrete, glass and steel
• a city that is rich with wildlife
• a city where every child benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors
• a city where all can enjoy high-quality green spaces, clean air, clean waterways and where more people choose to walk and cycle.
Envirohub Bay of Plenty’s regional network spans Katikati, Rotorua, Taup≈ç, Tauranga, Te Puke.