Saturday, December 2, 2023

A record that’s worth playing again

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An opportunity to record history as it is happening has prompted the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank to open its doors after Cyclone Gabrielle.
Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust volunteers Denise McBride, Robyn Warren, Grant Ansell and Linda Bainbridge prepare for the open house, encouraging people to digitally record Cyclone Gabrielle history.
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The digital world we tend to record a lot of our lives in is a fleeting beast.

With news streams and timelines being perpetually populated it’s easy to lose track of what’s happened years, months, even weeks ago.

Who hasn’t scrolled past an album in their Spotify collection and thought, “Gosh I forgot all about that band”?

In a different time that album would have been seen every time you looked through the record or CD collection.

So news that the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank is starting a project to record the experiences of those who suffered through Cyclone Gabrielle is fantastic.

Too often we stop, snap and forget – that cell phone picture heading off to the cloud, never to be seen again.

But the stories of survival, determination, support and empathy that have been unfolding over the past month deserve to be preserved.

They say those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.

By archiving the stories of those Hawke’s Bay communities we can rebuild on the foundations that those resilient communities laid down.

Items of interest for digital archiving can be emailed to

Another project that’s worth a mention is one that endeavours to nurture and preserve knowledge through work being done in classrooms across the country.

The Agribusiness in Schools programme was developed by St Paul’s Collegiate but is now taught in more than 100 schools around New Zealand.

With New Zealand being a nation that makes a fair bit of its money through food production, you’d think learning about it at school would be a given.

But it’s not, and it took an innovative project from Kerry Allen at St Paul’s Collegiate in Hamilton to get a recognised agribusiness curriculum into secondary schools.

Later this month Agribusiness in Schools celebrates 10 years of teaching and can point to 100 schools that include the programme.

But it’s not done yet and Allen hopes to have another 20 schools signed up by the end of the year.

A few years ago, then agriculture minister Nathan Guy released a landmark report outlining the future workforce requirements of the primary industries.

Horticulture, the report stated, would need almost 8000 more workers in 2025 than it did in 2012 – and they’d need more skills.

Every other sector of our food production industry faced similar, daunting targets if it was to realise its potential.

Yet many of our best and brightest aren’t ushered towards a life on the land by the education system that nurtures their talents.

They’re herded towards the usual high-achieving lives of lawyers, doctors or accountants.

For farming to flourish we’ll need those lawyers and accountants, of course, but will the graduates understand that contributing to our food production industry can be more rewarding and lucrative than writing wills or doing the sums for property developers?

The thing is, a taste of agribusiness at secondary school not only increases the chances of a learner choosing a farming life.

What it does is give that learner the option of applying the skills they will acquire – in law or medicine or information technology – to helping that food production system thrive.

And it goes further than the STEM subjects.

The big issues in food production rely on tackling challenges that have a moral, environmental and social core. Those challenges will only be overcome by those working in the humanities and social sciences.

Yet too many of those young people aren’t aware of the part they could play, and they won’t even give it a go.

We’ve got a long way to go to reach the ambitious goals of that report, but Guy is still working at it – he helped early in the programme’s life and will speak at the anniversary event.

We can all learn from Allen’s leadership and determination, and perhaps those who design our education systems should take a closer look.

It’s fantastic that this groundbreaking programme is being celebrated, but it’s also a little sad that it was needed in a country that depends so much on its land-based sectors.

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