At the 2015 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.
Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact.
Highly commended – Auckland Council’s Wai Care Programme.
Launched in 2000, Wai Care is a collaborative water action programme run by Auckland Council to encourage citizens to form groups to monitor local waterways and catchments.
Participants also take part in restoration and advocacy with the aim of improving the health of their local waterways.
Overseen by 11 coordinators, who have ties with council departments, it has proved so successful that the number of groups formed has exceeded targets. During 2014, there were 138 Wai Care groups monitoring 142 sites across the region. The focus is on ‘citizen science’ – scientific research conducted by amateur or non-professional scientists to care for waterways and catchments, engage and work with communities to take action, learn together and care for their ‘place’ and enable kaitiakitanga.
Schools are actively involved, with more than 7700 students taking part in the scheme in 2014 including cleaning up litter in and around streams, weeding and planting. There were more than 80 events last year, involving thousands of volunteers and planting of more than 16,000 trees and plants.
Through the programme, volunteers are provided with free training, monitoring equipment, restoration materials and educational resources, as well as support and guidance from their local Wai Care coordinator.
Valuable resources and data created through the programme are used by Auckland Council and other groups both regionally and nationally. These include non-government organisations, councils, universities and government agencies such as NIWA, Landcare Research and the Department of Conservation.
Judges praised the “long-term commitment and community involvement” of the project and said achieving the end goals would have significant outcomes for the region.
LGNZ president Lawrence Yule said, “Wai Care has enabled residents to take ownership of their own streams and waterways and contributed to multiple objectives including raising awareness about water quality and increasing people’s pride in their place.”
This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.