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Wānaka Water Project

WAI wānaka at the Wānaka Matariki community celebration 2022
By working together, we empower communities to understand their water, their environment, and their impact.

The first official Matariki public holiday has brought forward many beautiful stories around Aotearoa and highlighted the significance of each of the 9 stars and their connection with the natural world. Waitī – the star of freshwater – is our focus at WAI Wānaka. In this newsletter we reflect on our connection with the community and the importance of working together to protect and support our lakes and rivers for future generations. 

Mānawatia a Matariki

At this year’s Wānaka Matariki celebration each of the 9 stars was represented by a community organisation related to the star’s connection with the natural world. The team at Kahu Youth had created a star map and the tamariki could collect a stamp or sticker for each activity completed, pulling the groups together into a web of life.

WAI Wānaka were honoured to represent Waitī – the star of freshwater and all living things that inhabit lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. We would like to thank all the wonderful volunteers that made this event so special and all the tamariki, rangatahi and whānau who came out despite the rain and celebrated this very special event together. Ngā mihi nui.


Cause for celebration!

This month WAI Wānaka are chuffed to receive not one but 2 Awards in close succession, as well as congratulating our wonderful Chair Mandy Bell on winning the Award for Outstanding Individual at the Ignite Wānaka Business Awards.

WAI Wānaka received the Outstanding Not-for-Profit Award at the Ignite Wānaka Business Awards 2022
Huge congratulations to our Chair Dr Amanda Bell for winning the Outstanding Individual Award at the Ignite Wānaka Business Awards!
WAI Wānaka are very excited to receive the Inaugural New Zealand Landcare Trust Otago Catchment Group Award this year.

Cat Dillon WAI Wānaka Operations Manager
Kia ora,
I’m Cat Dillon and I am the new Operations Manager for WAI Wānaka

I studied Zoology and Ecology at Massey University in Palmerston North which was followed by a year working for DOC at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre in the Wairarapa. After 10 years with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Quarantine Service (now MPI Biosecurity) and another 10 with Wessex Water in the UK, I moved back to NZ with my husband and a baby boy on board who was swiftly followed by his twin sisters. Our wee family of five landed in Wānaka in 2020 and feel very privileged to have settled into this wonderful community. Life is busy but I am super excited to be joining the incredible team at WAI. Their dedication and passion for protecting this precious ecosystem we are lucky enough to call home is truly inspiring!

Beech Rescue

Jobs for Nature | Mahi mō te Taiao

The WAI field team were called back to a previous work site on a lakeside property after the snow storm in early June to help with a rescue effort to upright a few thousand juvenile Beech trees.

The young trees had been smothered by the weight of snow, and bent down into the bracken. Pruning back the bracken and some careful handling allowed the beech trees to stand back upright. The biggest challenge was finding the trees that had been pulled down into the dense bracken. Knowing just how much work goes into planting natives at this scale, the team were enthusiastic to get in there and assist, and make sure the Beech continues to thrive.

Communities of Practice

Last week the project team invited a small group of 20 stakeholders from 11 different organisations – including community groups, funding bodies, and central and local government, to participate in a workshop centred on model development for a Community of Practice for environmental groups in Otago.

The workshop tested how Communities of Practice could add value to groups and their kaupapa, reduce duplication of effort and better support enduring organisations and outcomes for the environment.

Embracing te Taiao – On the Farm

Education & Outreach

After many hold-ups due to covid restrictions for the last 6 months, the first farm visit happened earlier this month and the year 5&6 students from Te Kura O Take Kārara spent the day out of doors visiting Kidds Bush and Hunter Valley Station. Damian from Enviroschools and Hannah from Hunter Valley Station joined us all sharing fascinating knowledge of land use change and impacts of lake level rise in the area and wider catchment.

WAI Wānaka’s relationship with schools is flourishing. More tamariki are getting involved, and more preschools and schools are asking WAI Wānaka to connect our environmental mahi to their curriculum. We need your help to develop further educational resources to continue the good mahi into the future.


Why do you choose to support WAI Wānaka’s education programme?

“I walk to work most mornings along the lake front and often pass WAI Wānaka with a school group. I think it is wonderful that they are learning in such a hands-on way about the source and importance of our fresh water, and the effects urbanisation can have on it. It’s a pleasure to be able to help continue with this learning in some small way.”

Wools of Wanaka’s journey began back in 1976 when it first opened in Wanaka, albeit under a different name. The original owners came from a farming background who knew the wonderful benefits of wool and wanted to share it with locals and tourists alike. The store has remained true to its ethos of only stocking 100% high-quality NZ Made woollen products specialising in Possum Merino Garments.


A lot of mahi has gone on behind the scenes at WAI Wānaka to align our efforts with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We will introduce the ones most relevant to our work over the next few months.

Our ambitions for protecting our place are not small. We know that we cannot do it alone. That’s why Goal 17 – PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS is essential to our success. We know that partnerships with our communities, iwi, farmers, government agencies, community groups, universities and scientists are all critical to our work.

Sustainable Development Goal 17

WATER TIP OF THE MONTH: Wash your car on the lawn

The kids will tell you why, click on the video link below.

Did you know that the stormwater drains on your street are essentially underground streams that flow straight into our lake?

Everything you put down the storm drains ends up in our streams, rivers and lakes.

REMEMBER: Next time you wash your car at home, use environmentally friendly soaps and park your car on the lawn so the runoff can be absorbed and filtered by the grass and soil before it enters our precious waterways.

Shout-out to all of our wonderful sponsors, supporters, stakeholders and the local community without whom we wouldn’t be able to continue our mahi !

Click here to find out who they are.

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