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Restart Podcast Ep. 73: Repair Café Aotearoa New Zealand

Christchurch Repair Revolution

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Four months after its launch on Repair Day 2021, we spoke to four people involved in the repair network, Repair Café Aotearoa New Zealand. Brigitte Sistig is the co-founder and project lead of RCANZ. Kahurangi Carter is National Coordinator for Māori Zero Waste organisation Para Kore. Sarah Pritchett is Sector Projects Manager for WasteMINZ. And Dr Paul Smith is Product Test Manager for Consumer NZ.

Talking to the RCANZ network really reveals the diversity and partnership that is essential to the repair movement. Their attitude towards inclusivity is something that all can learn from. It is also good to know we are aligned in our fight for the Right to Repair, even on the other side of the world. 

How repair respects the earth

Carter starts us off with a traditional prayer to Ranginui and Papatūānuku. It’s a practice that “grounds us and connects us to our Sky Father and Earth Mother”. Carter speaks about the way that repair can act as a way to give back and respect the earth. It also encourages us to think about where our belongings really come from, rethinking their value. This sets the tone for our conversation on how the ethic and the history of Aotearoa inspire people to repair their things.

“This is really the land of the Number 8 Wire – creativity, ingenuity. A culture where we just need to be very resourceful because we are very few people across quite a large landscape. And so you may not have access to parts or resources, or the means or funds to buy any new items.”

Pritchett and Sistig also note the history and geography of Aotearoa meant that repair was the only option for a very long time. While the economy and global trade have now changed this, there is still an ingrained sense of scarcity and the need for autonomy. It is good to have options but they both note that a flourishing of this mindset would have many positive impacts.

RCANZ network

Using partnership to change policy

We also discuss the petition that RCANZ is running in partnership with Consumer NZ, Greenpeace and more. They are calling for the government to: 

  1. Pass laws that require products to last longer and be easier to repair
  2. Take action to make repair services accessible and affordable for everyone
  3. Ensure consumers have access to information on product repairability and durability
  4. Require producers to offer spare parts and repair services

These asks are very similar to what we are asking for here in the UK, and across Europe as well. But it is rare that consumer groups and community repairers work so closely together. Smith tells us about the power that this collaboration brings, describing Consumer NZ as a “megaphone for individuals”. He also tells us what learning they’ve done after watching the implementation of repairability indexes in Europe.

The future of RCANZ

Many of the proudest moments of RCANZ are linked to community building and the way that they have continued to grow and thrive despite the challenges of the last two years. Pritchett and Carter tell stories from repair cafés in Ōtautahi Christchurch where it was heartening to see people come together in a city that has endured recent crises. These are just a couple of examples of the resilience and solidarity of RCANZ and we cannot wait to see what comes next.

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[Images courtesy of RCANZ and Christchurch Repair Revolution]

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