It was late at night and my mind was racing. I could hear the sound of Rod on the piano at the other end of the house and heavy rain falling on our tin roof. Yet again the waters of our river would be rising and all became uncertain again. How do we prepare for uncertainty? What might we put in our luggage to not only prepare but also cultivate uncertainty. I had just got off a call with my sister Lucy. We were preparing to install a ‘Green Dunny’ (aka portable composting loo) in our future educational space near the river, in fact right in the middle of the floodplain. My brother had raised questions about the wisdom of what we were doing; “I strongly recommend that you do not place the dunny in the floodway, from where it will be swept away and or physically damaged. Please remember that a third of the maize I planted near the River Bank was flattened by the flood water.” He suggested a higher, somewhat desolate location on top of a flood stop bank. It was windswept and not the most magical place for children to be. Lucy said, “maybe this is a fast fail” she meant that in a good way. In other words it is a risk we were prepared to take and whatever happens we will learn something. I call it failing forwards. We both agreed fear of risk is making our world moribund, everything is grinding to a halt in our efforts to manage and control, rather than growing with and learning to flow with the rivers of change. I reflected on the last year; not much would have happened in our Mauri oho project if we had avoided all risk. The small pockets of trees we planted above the floodway are now thriving, making stepping stones for what might be. We now can envisage the whole of the wetland terrace planted. In some ways the trees and the growth of the now unstocked grasses are creating islands of sanctuary, not only for people but also for the water. I hear more people talking about a sponge landscape and we are learning that the vegetation is slowing the flood waters and enabling the water to more gently return to the places it wants to be.

The Green Dunny journies along the side of the Ruamāhanga with the Wahenga Bridge in the background

The next morning the rain had stopped, by that time I had invited some of our Mauri oho volunteers to join a Green Dunny Cavalcade. It seemed that nothing short of a celebratory event was needed to welcome our purchase into its new home. However I also had my doubts especially as the winds that can howl across this part of the Wairarapa had arrived in full force. Nonetheless as we led the other vehicles through the paddock that runs along the side of the river, hoping for no boggy spots, I said to my husband Rod “I feel disproportionately excited.” The delivery of the dunny definitely marked the beginning of a new chapter for Mauri oho, but I had no idea of the charm our new acquisition would hold”.

Rod between the Poplars

We sat the dunny at the edge of a circle of tall poplars that must be nearly 200 years old. Back in the day it was perhaps a house site soon abandoned as the waters rose. For us it is a natural spot for a campsite, designed to let the water come and go. Two trees provided the perfect location for the dunny; level on one side, providing just enough shelter from the wind. Most importantly the trees serve as anchors for the strong straps attached to four corner rings that Matt from the Little Green Dunny company has added to his design. Once in position I saw it had been crafted out of different timbers including douglas fir, macrocarpa and reclaimed hardwood from barbecue tables left at the dump. There is a brass coat hanger and of course the loo seat is also wood.

As we drove away I texted my other sister Liz,“perhaps we can go there on Sunday and have a fire and an Easter Egg Hunt.” Big thanks to Rachael and Matt for bringing not only practicality but an object of joy and beauty into our future campsite. We also want to thank Tom, Martin and Jane who bought the paintings Michael Moore generously donated for the cause and to the many people who instead of giving my mother Yvonne and I presents for our respective 98th and 60th birthdays, gave donations towards the purchase of the dunny and a welcome shelter that soon will sit in the middle of the trees.

Yvonne and Jane with Rachael and Matt Dell from the Green Dunny Company