Rod Oram Energises Ōtaki

DE15_Oram-Rod.jpgWhat is Ōtaki’s Place in the worldwide Energy Revolution? Business journalist Rob Oram was in town recently to see what Ōtaki has already achieved and to speak of other initiatives.

At a packed Ōtaki College meeting, he spoke of overseas developments, particularly in Beijing, London and Chicago which he visited in September: metropolis developments in Beijing will eventually house 100 million people — current population 23 million; others include “ecover” the rooftop green houses’ growing local foods, London’s electric buses — running since the 1950’s, California’s Green Tea Party’s main interest in sustainability projects but not climate change, Vermont’s Green Mountain Power — an American trailblazer, to the Aucklander who discovered the means to capture CO2 from the steelmills and turning it into a useable methane gas by adding bacteria. He mentioned the sixth great extinction, the last one 30 million years ago, which destroyed much of the early animal life, to the “current era where people are the cause.”

“I think we need to start seeing the world from upside down, from the aspect of three Greek words:

  • Ecology — the home,
  • Economy — the stewardship of the house,
  • Ethics — disposition to restore our relationships with each other”
  • Biomimicry — learning, borrowing, adapting from nature — a massive transformation,” he told the attentive audience.

F_DE15_Oram-meeting.jpgIn New Zealand is it becoming increasingly practical to contribute to the (eco-friendly) power supply side, although still very slow; we have the generation and distribution means and pathways — smart energy, strong economy, resilient community, we learn fast, partner widely and well and experiment continuously. We are able to connect locally — regionally — nationally — internationally.

While welcoming and introducing Mr Oram to the meeting, college principal Andy Fraser, spoke of some of the college initiatives alongside the Energise Ōtaki — the making and use of the blended fuel used in the college vans and earlier in the tractor – this made for 75 per cent less emissions, it travelled further and required less maintenance. The college has installed 40 solar panels for power supply, a group of students are currently working on the Green Bikes — refurbishing bicycles which will be available for community use, they have recently planted 1400 poplar trees to provide a Fuel Forest for gasification, to replace their current natural gas heating. Some students are currently investigating how much food comes into Ōtaki and how much waste is produced. “It’s important to connect with the kids,” Mr Fraser said. “Our children need to know about energy, it is essential for our future.”

Leigh Ramsey spoke about the Energise Ōtaki group based at the Ōtaki Clean Technology Centre in Titoki Street. “The initiative is huge, producing (sustainable) energy will give people choice,” he said. “It’s not anyone’s group, it’s a community initiative recognising energy benefits and being affordable.”

The Kapiti District Council’s electric rubbish truck was on display outside, over the last two years it has travelled 67,000 kilometres and used no diesel at all.

“…. zero waste to the landfill — packaging waste. We all have to learn,” said Mr Oram as he quoted Jonny Rotten’s “You’ll have no future if you don’t make one for yourself”.

Rod Oram’s visit was sponsored by Energise Ōtaki, with support from the World Wildlife Fund.

Margaret Andrews

Rod Oram at breakfast

Next morning, addressing a business breakfast at the RSA, Rod Oram spoke to an attentive crowd of over 80 people.

His address was accompanied by a presentation that you can review at your leisure (see above right). Typical of Oram’s well-researched work, all his sources were referenced, his opinions reinforced by fact.

He touched on Auckland’s house price spiral, and NZ’s vulnerability to China’s economic slowdown. Our growth curve, which peaked in mid-2014 is now slowing, and our economy is getting less complex, with a smaller range of simpler (unprocessed) products like milk powder & logs, mostly going to China. Oram’s message was clear: we need to grow our way up the value chain, to increase our GDP per capita.

Having confronted the audience with NZ’s unimpressive economic performance, Oram turned to our ecosystem, quoting a recent government report that quantified many of the declining aspects of our environment. This lead on to renewable energy. Oram showed graphs to illustrate the exponential uptake of solar capacity worldwide. he told of how his Auckland house has been transformed to minimal energy consumption, and how he drives an electric car.

In closing, Oram showed us how New Zealand should and could participate in a new postcapitalist economy. Stimulating and thought-provoking.

Lloyd Chapman

Rod Oram — business journalist

Rod Oram was born in the United Kingdom.

He spent 20 years as an international financial journalist in Europe and North America, and travelled extensively in those continents and in Asia. From 1975–1979 Rod held various journalist positions in Canada and from 1979–1997 he held a variety of posts at the Financial Times, London and New York.

In 1997 Rod and his family emigrated to New Zealand, where he was editor of the Business Herald section of The New Zealand Herald from 1997–2000. Oram was a triple award-winner at the 2004 Qantas Media Awards; as business columnist of the year, business feature writer of the year and winner of the NZTE travel scholarship for his writing on innovation in New Zealand.

He is a columnist for The Sunday Star-Times, a regular broadcaster on radio and television and a frequent public speaker. Rod is an adjunct professor in the business school at Unitec in Auckland and he has contributed to several regional economic development projects

In the 2006 Westpac Business & Financial Journalism Awards Oram won the Reporting on Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability or Community Engagement category. He is an adjunct professor in the business school at Unitec in Auckland and he has contributed to several regional economic development projects

Lloyd Chapman

Links from Rod Oram’s Presentations

Business Breakfast: You can find Rod’s complete talk as a pdf on KCDC’s website (pdf)

Otaki College talk: You can find Rod’s complete talk to Ōtaki College on KCDC’s website (pdf)

Within his two talks, Oram made reference to a number of experts, providing links to their information. If you have time, they are very worthwhile.

There’s a lot of information here, but if you have the time, and are interested in how Ōtaki can develop sustainably, it’s worth taking the time to explore.