While the focus of the gatherings has changed from year to year, the ongoing intention has always been to explore more creative ways to reinvigorate the relationship that active citizens can have with the political life of their country.
Heart Politics has also sought to emphasise the links between the diverse contributions New Zealanders can make to their community, their environment and the political life of their country.
The first ‘Festival of Heart Politics’ was held at the Tauhara Centre, a retreat and conference venue overlooking Lake Taupo, at the centre of New Zealand’s North Island. It was initiated by Vivian Hutchinson, a local community activist who has fostered the development of “gathering culture” as a focus for adult education and transformation.
Heart Politics draws on the cultural processes established from an earlier series of gatherings held around New Zealand in the 1970s and 80s.
These processes draw inspiration from the gathering traditions (hui) of the indigenous Maori people, especially in their approach to welcoming and hosting participants, and in the use of large oratory circles (whaikorero).
Over the three decades the themes of the gatherings have reflected the changing face of social and environmental change work, both here and abroad. We have enjoyed input from many keynote speakers including American activist Fran Peavey (who wrote the book that inspired the name of the first gathering), Australian deep ecologist John Seed, veteran NZ peace campaigner Sonja Davies, former Green Party leader Rod Donald, former NZ Governor General Sir Paul Reeves, social activists John Minto and Jane Kelsey, and prominent NZ historians Tony Simpson and Michael King.
The gatherings have been inspired and fed by the lives and stories of its participants. In 1999 Dale Hunter introduced the Heart Politics community to Open Space Technology. Over the last twenty years Heart Politics has developed its own version of this simple social process that allows the participants to co-create the event they are at, rather than having too much of the programme created for them.
Each daily programme brings with it an alive marketplace of workshops on everything from holistic health to strategic questioning, conflict resolution and networking, men’s and women’s issues, green dollars, various psychotherapies, permaculture, co-housing, facilitation, organisational development, climate change issues, and social enterprise.