Cr Alexa Forbes

Councillor - Dunstan Constituency

Tel 021 296 4255

Alexa Forbes paddle boarding

The walls of Alexa Forbes’ Frankton home are painted in vibrant hues and hung with paintings and prints made by her husband and son, both artists. What’s her art? “I’m a fixer,” she says. A darner, a sewer — she would rather a shirt had 200 wears than a fast fashion 10 and loves the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, or ‘golden repair’ — mending something using gold to make the broken object more precious. She has been known to take the shirt off other people’s backs to stitch it better.

Mending and using less is at the core of everything Alexa does.

She lives, breathes, and teaches sustainability. Whether it’s harvesting her permaculture-inspired garden, which produces a huge amount of food on a tiny section, or her academic work as a lecturer in sustainable practice — she toils to highlight the environmental precipice we currently teeter on.

She explains the Jevon’s Paradox that arises in the drive for efficiency as a solution to environmental issues.

“As you create more efficiency, you drive demand. More roads equal more congestion. As airlines become more efficient, more people want to travel.”

With both visitor and residential numbers rising exponentially in the Queenstown Lakes District, the detrimental effect of an economic system that only works if we keep consuming more is plain to see right here in her own backyard. Living in her 1930s bungalow for 22 years — and on the same street for 26 — has allowed her to note changes in the lake, degradation.

“The water is not as clear as it used to be; I’ve watched as various pest plants have appeared … sediment and run-off from development and roadworks … human activity, basically. The lake level is very low right now — there’s not a lot of snow in the glacier ice pack to feed the catchment.”

Alexa has real concern for the future of the waterways we love.

“We need to care for these lakes now. They must be prioritised as essential to our own health and wellbeing. These great lakes must be restored; they are the headwaters and affect the environment and, therefore, our lives all the way from here to the ocean.”

She came to the role of councillor through a convoluted process.

“Looking for a more environmental approach to my career, I sold my PR company and invested the proceeds in education.”

Completing a graduate diploma in sustainable practice, she worked at Otago Polytechnic on the Shaping our Future project, a partnership with Otago Polytechnic students and QLDC, which led her into local government. After two terms as a councillor at Queenstown Lakes District Council and completing a Master’s thesis on the intersection of technology and environmental factors, she stood for Otago Regional Council in 2019.

What does she bring to the table?

“The Pākehā version of a Māori understanding and a deep commitment to the environment. Local knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of sustainable practice and good systems thinking. A holistic view. I don’t like reductionism. I want us to always broaden out to the much wider, long-term picture.”

A hardliner when it comes to the rights of nature, Alexa is a disruptor.

“I want people to understand the real threats they face so we can work together to reduce consumption, to rework the endless cycle of supply creating demand towards ways of restoring our environment and ourselves. Energy’s a classic example of supply creating demand. Here we are, scrabbling about for new ways to supply increasing amounts of energy to drive a growth economy. We ignore the demand side of the equation for fear of interrupting that growth. Essentially, we need to use LESS energy — far, far less.”

Page last updated 21 June 2024.