Rachel | The Wood, Nelson
“Home to me, is about connection with my family and my friends and my community, and I feel quite deeply connected both to this place, whenua Nelson, Whakatū but also to Aotearoa.
In my 20s and 30s I spent quite a bit of time overseas traveling and working in different parts of the world, the developing world, and each time I came home, kind of landing in New Zealand, I just felt the air seemed fresher, the light was brighter, and I just felt like people connected in a different way. I don’t think that New Zealanders necessarily connect more strongly or deeply than other people or cultures, but for me it felt like my people and my land. An experience that really brought that home for me was in 2010 was when we lost three family members in the Haiti earthquake, and I left New Zealand to support my sister, and when I came home to Nelson, it was just really amazing the community support that was there for all of us in so many ways, to get us through that time. I think before that, I had quite a strong focus on work and I felt really passionate about the work I was doing, sometimes to the detriment maybe of relationships with family and friends. I didn’t give them enough time, and I think that experience just really brought into incredibly sharp focus for me what was critically important in life. Ever since then I’ve really tried to prioritise connections with people, with family and friends, and my wider community.
I feel deeply connected to this community, and this country, and I think that the last year has probably brought those feelings up for a lot of us, forcing us to reflect on what is important, and I probably couldn’t talk about home without talking about our environment and the land that we inhabit. I feel really connected to that, and I’m also passionate about working with other people to protect it.
I was actually born in Whanganui, but I grew up in Nelson, and this is definitely my tūrangawaewae. It’s really where I feel at home. I left like a lot of young Nelsonians do, but also Kiwis, and I went off to university, and then travelled and worked overseas, and then I came home in my mid-30s, six weeks before our son was due. It was like the last day they’d let me on the plane to come home, and I’ve just really poured everything into being here and being part of this community. I ran an organisation, Experiential Education Organisation, working with young people for almost two decades. Then my partner and I sold that in 2018 to really focus on something else in the next stage of our lives. So, for me, I just decided that I was going to pour myself into working for the community and I thought that with my background and life experience that maybe as an elected member of the community at local government level would be a good fit. It’s been an interesting journey. Not as easy or maybe not as positive as I’d expected. Last year was pretty tough, but I remain hopeful, and I’m super-committed to the community, and feel really deeply about representing the people in the community, particularly those who maybe don’t have a voice, or are not able to advocate for themselves in our local and Central Government institutions. Then also really trying to make sure that we’re making decisions taking a really long-term view, thinking about future generations, and making decisions that ensures we’re being good ancestors and we’re going to leave a sustainable future for our children and their kids.”