Let the new journey begin...

Walk for the Planet 2020

Walk for the Planet 2020

Wellbeing of people, wellbeing of the planet, celebrating the cosmos

Tuhinga o mua, te pai o te ao, whakanui i te ao



Revelations 22: 1 - “Show me the river of the water of life.”

Walk for the Planet 2009 was an ecumenical, grassroots pilgrimage, initiated by Te Hahi Wereriana o Aotearoa / Methodist Church of New Zealand, from Rakiura (Stewart Island) to Wellington during Lent and Easter which connected with hundreds of people all over the South Island, on Rakiura and in Wellington.

Out of the Walk for the Planet experience in 2009, The River of Life Project was born as an initiative of the Methodist Church Central South Island Synod, bursting into life in the wake of the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes.

The River of Life Project's trademark event is The Great Otakaro Avon River Walk, which is a feature event in the Christchurch Walking Festival, held annually during September and October. The walk inspired us to walk again in 2017, with The River of Life Project initiating Walk for the Planet – Seven Rivers, Seven Weeks based in Canterbury with water as our focus - both local and global.

The basic premise was about having a conversation about Canterbury's rivers with politicians, scientists, farmers, anglers, environmental groups and ordinary people.

The initiative was so successful it received extensive media coverage, considerable social media traffic and became the feature film, Seven Rivers Walking, which premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival winter edition in Christchurch at the Isaac Theatre Royal in August 2017, before screening at cinemas all around New Zealand and overseas. It has since been released on DVD.

While the film cost around $140,000 to produce, it was the original seed funding from the Methodist Church PAC fund which made it all possible.



The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has set a deadline of 2030 to stop a catastrophe 1.5 degree rise in the global mean temperature.

In response to this, Environment Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council have joined with hundreds of jurisdictions around the world, including the United Kingdom parliament, in declaring a climate emergency, while the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill is currently before parliament.

These are all strong responses to protecting creation, but equally we need a strong spiritual response to engage people and to help ensure these are not merely symbolic actions, but evolve into meaningful change.

Legislation and actions by both central and local government can take several years to be developed and implemented, and several more years to bare fruit. The year 2030 is barely a decade away, so the time for meaningful, heartfelt and spirit-filled action is now.


Youth Mental Health

Psalm 82:5 - “They walk around in darkness.”

Scientists say the human brain is the most complex thing we know off in the universe. Young people are our future and when you talk to our youth, whether it be in schools, local youth councils or young farmers' clubs, the message is pretty much the same – the biggest issues are mental wellbeing, the environment and water quality.

It has been well documented that we are facing a mental health crisis in Canterbury in the aftermath of the earthquakes and waiting lists of two months or more are common for those seeking specialist help. Our youth are growing up and maturing in the wake of earthquakes which have fundamentally changed our lives and more recently they have witnessed terrorism in our neighbourhood.

The youth of today are known as the “internet generation” and are exposed to so much on the internet and social media that we couldn't possibly have imagined only a few decades back. They face an uncertain future with climate change and an ever changing workplace, where our education system is struggling to keep up. This is on top of normal youth issues, stuff they deal with as they grow up through the teenage years.

American environmentalist Paul Hawken recently told a class of university graduates: “You are brilliant and the Earth is hiring. The Earth couldn't afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rains, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine and that unbelievably cute person you are dating.”

To paraphrase Hawken,: “Our civilisation needs a new operating system, we are the programmers and we need it within a decade”.


Kaupapa (purpose)

The kaupapa of Walk for the Planet 2020 is:

To raise a greater awareness and attention to the ecological and mental health crises facing our region, our country and our planet, and the need for a stronger political and spiritual response.”

We propose a sustained movement over at least two years, rather than an intensive seven week effort which is quickly forgotten. 2020 is a general election year, so let us begin in the spring of 2019, a year out from the election, pick it up again in the autumn and spring of 2020 to engage in the election conversation. We can then pick it up again in the autumn of 2021 and beyond to ensure the message is not forgotten.

The focus will be on conversations with young people, local faith communities, community groups, farmers and politicians, sharing stories of hope, as well as addressing some complex issues in a spirit-filled and hopeful way to attempt to find local solutions.

Young people will be encouraged to take the lead, in these inter-generational conversations.

We will produce seasonal study guide resources along the themes of mental wellbeing, water quality and climate change, engage with local media, produce regular community radio shows which can be podcast and videos to share on social media and we will be talking to local film makers.


Spring 2019

Psalm 97: 2 - “Clouds and thick darkness are all around him.”

  • The Great Otakaro Avon River Walk – Leg one Saturday, September 28, during the Christchurch Walking Festival, in partnership with the University of Canterbury Student Volunteer Army and Methodist inner city chaplain. (Second leg in October.)

  • Kaiapoi River Wellbeing Walk – Saturday, October 12, during the Christchurch Walking Festival with a focus on youth wellbeing. In partnership with Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish, Community Wellbeing North Canterbury (which the Kaiapoi Co-operating Parish played an integral role in the establishment of), local youth organisations and the Waimakariri District Council community team.

Other events may include an Opawaho Heathcote River walk, a cycle tour of Te Waihora / Lake Ellesmere and Wairewa / Lake Forsyth during “Biketober” and an event in Rangiora.


Autumn and Spring 2020, and Autumn 2021

Lamentations chapter 3 - “It has made my paths crooked”, and you don't get much more crooked than when you follow the path of a river, whether up or downsteam.

Walks and public forums are being planned in Christchurch, Kaiapoi and Rangiora (and beyond as other individuals and organisations come on board) in partnership with local Methodist and co-operating parishes with a focus on the water quality of our rivers and on climate change.

It is proposed to hold The Great Otakaro Avon River Walk and an Opawaho Heathcote River walk during the 2020 Christchurch Walking Festival.


Resources and Funding

We have received seed funding of $2000 from the Methodist Church PAC fund, which we hope to spread out over two years, for events during spring 2019, autumn and spring 2020 and autumn 2021. Spring 2021 would be the 10th Great Otakaro Avon River Walk. This will allow us to fund:

  • Radio shows on Plains FM cost $18 for a 25 minute show. We want to fund a regular show over two years, sponsor shows for likeminded organisations and support the making of videos.

  • We will purchase trees to plant at each event along the journey.

  • Speakers' gifts to present to speakers during the journey.


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David Bell
14 September 2019, 9:19 AM

Looks like another great programme for the next two years. Wondering whether we should encourage a similar programme for North Shore/Waitemata churches. 

David Hill
14 September 2019, 9:51 AM

We certainly welcome anyone, anywhere to join Walk for the Planet. Mark has just been walking rivers and canals in the UK and Europe connecting with the locals. So there is every chance Walk for the Planet could go global.