Good Earth Matters Blog

By David Bridges 18 Aug, 2016
Rising background nutrient levels are presenting an emerging and increasing problem for the New Zealand environment, and although these levels are far more significant in other places across the globe such as Europe, it is their past experience that magnifies the importance of addressing the situation at home now.

Understanding that a linear approach to problem solving limits the outcome and the ability to diversify into recovering or reusing a resource, Europe has adopted a building blocks approach to addressing the issue of increased nutrient levels, viewing it as an integrated whole rather than a stand-alone issue.

Through the specific processes used, Waste-water plants in Europe are recovering heat and energy, making them almost energy neutral which also offers significant cost implications. Europe’s economic approach to managing waste-water means that it is viewed as a resource rather than a problem, and provides the opportunity to recover nutrients, metals and energy.

I believe the way forward for New Zealand is adopting leading edge technology to preserve our three-waters through the power of collaboration. The primary focus is a strongly targeted message to support regional and local government. The secondary focus is about regarding infrastructure as an enabler in communities, and the third focus is the necessity to deliver infrastructure where it is needed in order to achieve the enabling element, and support the local initiatives in a manner which is sustainable both operationally and financially. This means engaging in circular economic thinking.

I recently travelled to Spain to attend the International Water Association LETS (Leading Edge Technology) Conference 2016, and was focused on taking in the ‘amazing view of emerging research and issues which would inform me in regards to what we need to be thinking about and focusing on in New Zealand’.

I identified a vast amount of international experience and knowledge which can be translated back to New Zealand, with one of the strongest messages from the conference being the collaboration demonstrated in Europe between researchers, local body, national government and industry, in regards to environmental issues. I have noticed that this integrated framework is one that New Zealand stakeholders are not as proactive in adopting.

The conference highlighted the importance of community leaders embracing a wider awareness of how the larger communities are impacted by their decision making, and the consequent necessity for a multi criteria approach. Taking a step back and looking at the Manawatu region, I see that the economic development strategy is in place, and is mindful that this needs to be aligned with an infrastructure and sustainability strategy to ensure the correct information is accessed in the process of decision making in order to create a successful operating environment. ‘To be effective in our regional economic strategy we’ve got to have a community of people and a set of values that is empowering for business, the community and the environment’. ‘Economic strategy cannot be achieved in isolation from the vitally important community values.’

Of particular interest at the conference was the Innovative Smart Solutions for Sustainable Water Services paper. I summarise this paper as adopting low energy technology, treating waste as a resource, integrating management systems, smart citizens’ services and resilient thinking. When putting this in the context of New Zealand, I believe that ‘It’s about managing the environmental impacts of discharging waste-water into the environment and using it beneficially rather than creating a problem through increasing nitrate levels’.

New Zealand has the unique advantage of learning from those international communities who are paddling against the current in putting right the environmental damage caused through ignorance and avoidance. By attending such conferences as LETS, studying their systems and applying the relevant factors to our own communities, companies like Good Earth Matters build strong and robust infrastructure to guide New Zealand safely into a circular economy that offers a resilient and sustainable future.
By Annette Sweeney 18 Aug, 2016
It is no longer acceptable to provide infrastructure that offers only one benefit. Unfortunately, often due to cost, a large amount of infrastructure is delivering the bare minimum of what is legally required. Increasingly evident is a widening gap between industry stakeholders and the communities they operate within in responding to issues that fall outside ‘business as usual’, whether forward thinking initiatives or responses to crisis events.

Lost opportunities for infrastructure directly impact economic growth in regional communities. We see businesses and industries unable to follow through with plans to establish plants in specific communities due to the lack of water, wastewater or stormwater infrastructure, resulting in the loss of growth and employment opportunities for those communities.

To try to combat this issue as well as the need to adhere to government compliance requirements, communities in New Zealand are becoming increasingly reactive in their approach to meeting infrastructure needs, which often leads to very high costs that are unattainable in the long term for an infrastructure system that may not be delivering the best outcome for the individual community. Risk levels are often mandated from a national level, and there is an evident disconnect between the risk level assigned and those which are relevant to the specific community in question. There is no ‘one size fits all’ – each community has its own set of specific needs, and adequate information collection assists all parties to make proactive and informed decisions for the long term.

Good Earth Matters is firmly focused on enabling communities throughout New Zealand by working openly with our clients in encouraging engagement with community groups. Our role is to provide the explicit information and expertise around risk, cost and performance, presenting it in a way that will enable those communities to make decisions that are right for them and their specific needs, ensuring they fully appreciate the implications and consequences of the decisions they make.

Understanding the legislative regulations as well as the environment in the wider sense of the community, we are able to put environmental risk into context for individual communities. It is about the basic quality of life – having sewer, stormwater and water services that can be relied upon – putting in place the infrastructure that ensures these basic necessities can be taken for granted within the routine of daily life.

Robust three-water design should provide multiple benefits such as creating pleasing public spaces, reliable public amenities and continued environmental benefits rather than just dealing with the minimum issues of flooding, adequate water supply and necessary waste disposal.
Providing infrastructures that respond to a range of issues with a simple and sustainable solution, one that provides multiple benefits without multiple costs – affordable infrastructure with more benefits achieved through good, forward thinking planning is what we need more of. It’s about having infrastructure that allows the ability to capitalise on opportunities when they arise, being able to respond to natural disasters early and recover quickly. It’s about being poised and ready for growth and development, preparing the economic base of a community for today, and preserving it for the future.
By David Bridges 18 Aug, 2016
Applying a Circular Economy approach is a life-changing opportunity to enable communities by transforming burden and problem waste into valuable resources for the future.

Traditionally, industry has taken a linear approach to production, drawing a solid boundary around the responsibilities of waste outputs. Thanks to new ways of thinking and the desire (and necessity) for a zero waste society, these traditional methods to industry are becoming redundant. There is a name for this innovative approach to waste management which we will hear more and more as the framework for industry changes worldwide – ‘Circular Economy’.

A Circular Economy is one in which human kind takes on an eco-system approach to interacting with the wider environment, in which everything is connected and there is nothing external from the system. In the traditional industrial system the linear approach dictates that a material is taken and processed, a product is produced and waste is expelled into the environment – often with no consideration to the effect it will have.

Within the Circular Economy, infrastructure is put in place to ensure that the waste produced from a specific industrial process is fed back into the system and utilised in another process, and the pattern is repeated to eliminate the systematic polluting of the environment that is an inevitable outcome of traditional industrial practices.

Currently in New Zealand there is a great deal of talk about Circular Economy, but the actual ‘boots and all’ adoption of the philosophy nationwide is slow in developing. We have a very real opportunity during this transitional period to investigate how the process can be managed on a national scale to ensure prevention of environmental illness rather than the ongoing treatment that is costly and only partially successful.
Zero waste ideas have been applied for many years to solid waste, but including wastewater in the Circular Economy philosophy is long overdue. Capturing nutrients in wastewater and using them in other applications would instantly flip wastewater from being a burden within our communities to an asset.

Internationally, there has been an increase in the development of zero input plants, designed to produce energy that can be fed back into the grid rather than discarded as waste, so that the wastewater becomes a resource generator rather than an environmental burden.

The handbrake in this country around innovation often stems from time constraints. New Zealanders have proved themselves to be highly innovative, with a plethora of globally adopted inventions and designs germinating from ideas right here at the bottom of the world. Unfortunately wastewater management is often dealt with on a reactive basis, which completely cripples the ability to apply the Circular Economy model. As environmental engineers we need to trouble shoot this issue so that we can eliminate reactive compliance.

At Good Earth Matters we believe we have an obligation to embrace a Circular Economy approach and take up every opportunity available to provide the infrastructure that will ensure New Zealand communities a future of healthy environments with minimal waste.
By Annette Sweeney 18 Aug, 2016
At the very core of Good Earth Matters is the unwavering desire to enable communities by designing and implementing infrastructure that supports sustainable growth and environmental enhancement.

Good Earth Matters is a multi-faceted professional environmental engineering and resource management consultancy company, based throughout provincial New Zealand, or in every-day language, a team of highly skilled people who share a dedication to sustainable water management.

So, what does that actually mean to you and me? Good Earth Matters exists to make sure that our communities have a dependable supply of clean, fresh drinking water, that we have safe systems to dispose of our wastewater, and that we are protected from the inevitable natural dangers of flood water.

Good Earth Matters is aware of how incredibly fortunate we are here in New Zealand to have such an ample supply of this life-giving resource, however, we are also acutely aware of how rapidly that is changing, and how devastating that could be to our fundamental way of life. We apply holistic thinking to encourage communities to view our water as a renewable and recoverable resource.

It’s about planning for the future. We all want our children, and their children to have certainty and security. Water management is the key to healthy living and healthy, progressive communities. Good Earth Matters’ aim is to enable communities to become completely sustainable by providing the infrastructure on which to build and grow.

Every community has its own specific needs, its own individual list of issues, its own unique requirements, which is why a general set of rules across the board does not ensure best outcome for all. Initial decision making is critical.

Good Earth Matters wants to ensure optimised, community specific infrastructure decisions are made by working closely with clients, engaging with them and helping them gain knowledge so that they make appropriate and informed decisions. You may not hear the easy options when consulting with Good Earth Matters, but you will get honest advice for a sustainable and community focussed outcome.

David Bridges is the Managing Director of Good Earth Matters, and if there is one thing he is passionate about, it is water. How we get it, how we use it, and how we dispose of it. And most importantly, how we ensure its continued availability.

In November of 2015, David travelled to Amsterdam, where he attended the Amsterdam International Water Week Conference, to learn from those countries and communities that have already faced the issues that are looming over the future of clean, green New Zealand. He returned to the Good Earth Matters offices buzzing with ideas, strategies and a firm belief that the company is heading in the absolute right direction.
“The decisions we make now determine the roadblocks we’ll hit in the future”, David says. “You have to have a very clear vision of the path you need to follow, and work continually with the end goal in mind, rather than responding reactively to situations as they arise. It is easy to go down the reactive road, and sometimes with good intentions, but that road has a very real potential to close doors in the future.”

“My visit to Amsterdam has reinforced the importance of acting now, planning for a future of sustainable communities and creating a safe and enjoyable way of life for the generations to come. There is a very real need for companies like ours, and there is a very real need for communities to demand better infrastructure from their leaders. We aspire to be the leading Australasian experts in enabling communities through sustainable infrastructure, and we welcome others to join us.”
By David Bridges 11 Aug, 2016
Good Earth Matters work with Environment Canterbury in protecting the areas around the Waimakariri River has been recognised as giving these communities one of the highest levels of theoretical flood protection in the country, and has become a blue print for truly resilient infrastructure that protects our people, protects our environment and protects our future.

Resilience is a word that is heard often over a wide variety of subjects, and is possibly the most important yet misused word in environmental infrastructure according to Annette Sweeney, Principal Environmental Engineer at Good Earth Matters, Palmerston North.

What does this mean on a practical level and why is resilience so important?

Recently, Annette was asked to present a paper at the National Storm Water Conference held in Nelson outlining the process Good Earth Matters followed in implementing the Waimakariri Flood Protection Project.

While many engineering companies are looking at resilience as a necessary addition to the planning process, Good Earth Matters has gone a big step further. Long before resilience became a buzz word they realised the best way to create lasting solutions was to weave them into the very fabric of environmental design at its very core, and this is what they undertook in the Waimakariri Flood Protection Project.



    “Keeping resilience at the forefront of every decision and every design detail meant strong and systematic planning, which                                                                                                    resulted in comprehensive flood protection”.

Because resilience is front and centre in all Good Earth Matters’ projects, it doesn’t incur extra cost or extra outlay. Constantly measuring each step of the design process for resilience simply results in a job done thoroughly, right from the start.

‘Resilience isn’t about just building things stronger so they will last longer’, says Annette. ‘By putting together a really good project team committed to good design, that understands risk, understands the environment for which they are designing, and works with people who are affected in an open, honest and respectful manner, you get a result which automatically includes resilience’.    

Download Annette's White Paper:  WAIMAKARIRI FLOOD PROTECTION, PROJECT: BUILDING BANKS AND RAISING INTEREST

By Annette Sweeney 27 Jun, 2016

Gemma Farrell is passionately dedicated to creating beautiful and meaningful art inspired by the natural world, so when she was offered the opportunity of creating a mural for the Good Earth Matters’ building she jumped at the chance. As Gemma had recently completed her degree at UCOL and was stepping out into the world of self-employment, it was perfect synchronicity.

The mural was commissioned as a collaboration between Good Earth Matters and the Palmerston North City Council, with the dual purpose of beautifying our city and sending a message that encapsulated what Good Earth Matters is all about. The company was adamant that they didn’t want to use the wall as an advertisement, but to encourage an appreciation of environmental, sustainability and community values environmental conservation and consideration within our daily lives, - values that are at the very core of the environmental engineering and resource management company.

Gemma invited another local artist, Mikal Carter, to join her in this huge undertaking which required 85 litres of paint, 140 400ml cans of spray paint and 200 hours of their time. Gemma attributes the success of her proposal to the knowledge she gained in UCOL, where, as well as being encouraged to experiment in just about any medium, she learnt the art of presenting a professional proposal.

It was vital to Gemma and Mikal that the mural was intrinsically New Zealand, that it embodied the principles of Maori Lore while also embracing the many other and varied cultures that populate our nation. They wanted to communicate the life that flows from mother earth, feeding and nurturing the land, the vegetation, the wildlife and the people who call New Zealand home, silently illustrating the importance of our reciprocated care and respect.

Gemma took on the role of Project Manager, but the artistic input was an equal partnership, with each artist working to their specific expertise. Gemma and Mikal are both strongly self-motivated, however their satisfaction stems from different areas of the creative process. Gemma is constantly uplifted by the energy she gets from those who stop to watch or talk. She loves the connection she develops with those coming and going within their own daily lives, and feels a real sense of community in the process. Mikal is more introspective with his creations and becomes immersed by his work and the transferring of his ideas onto the canvas. Gemma believes his true satisfaction is in the finished work, while hers is in the journey of creating it.

Palmerston North offers massive opportunity for street art beautification, and Gemma is incredibly excited to be coming in at the ground level of this growing trend. Having been inspired by an artistic father, supported by a creative husband and encouraged by other talented artists, Gemma aspires to pay forward her good fortune by working with youth, channelling what could otherwise be destructive behaviour into creative self-expression. When asked if seeing her work tagged (as happened part way through the mural creation) was terribly upsetting, Gemma commented that it just reinforces her determination to work towards providing an opportunity for kids who need an outlet.

Ultimately, Gemma and Mikal wanted to create a mural that emotionally engaged people and encompassed both the values of Good Earth Matters and the atmosphere of Aotearoa. To be told that ‘looking at their art work makes them feel the magic of being in the bush at sunrise’ is every bit equally as rewarding for them as being paid to do what they love to do.

National Recognition for a Job Well Done

  • By David Bridges
  • 11 Aug, 2016

Waimakariri River Protection Work

Good Earth Matters work with Environment Canterbury in protecting the areas around the Waimakariri River has been recognised as giving these communities one of the highest levels of theoretical flood protection in the country, and has become a blue print for truly resilient infrastructure that protects our people, protects our environment and protects our future.

Resilience is a word that is heard often over a wide variety of subjects, and is possibly the most important yet misused word in environmental infrastructure according to Annette Sweeney, Principal Environmental Engineer at Good Earth Matters, Palmerston North.

What does this mean on a practical level and why is resilience so important?

Recently, Annette was asked to present a paper at the National Storm Water Conference held in Nelson outlining the process Good Earth Matters followed in implementing the Waimakariri Flood Protection Project.

While many engineering companies are looking at resilience as a necessary addition to the planning process, Good Earth Matters has gone a big step further. Long before resilience became a buzz word they realised the best way to create lasting solutions was to weave them into the very fabric of environmental design at its very core, and this is what they undertook in the Waimakariri Flood Protection Project.



    “Keeping resilience at the forefront of every decision and every design detail meant strong and systematic planning, which                                                                                                    resulted in comprehensive flood protection”.

Because resilience is front and centre in all Good Earth Matters’ projects, it doesn’t incur extra cost or extra outlay. Constantly measuring each step of the design process for resilience simply results in a job done thoroughly, right from the start.

‘Resilience isn’t about just building things stronger so they will last longer’, says Annette. ‘By putting together a really good project team committed to good design, that understands risk, understands the environment for which they are designing, and works with people who are affected in an open, honest and respectful manner, you get a result which automatically includes resilience’.    

Download Annette's White Paper:  WAIMAKARIRI FLOOD PROTECTION, PROJECT: BUILDING BANKS AND RAISING INTEREST

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