Community Collaboration

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed (and organised) citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

-Margaret Mead

Group of students learning about water quality at the shores of lake Wānaka with WAI Wānaka's science coordinator Ash Rabel


By working together, we empower communities to understand their water, their environment, and their impact.

From WAI Wānaka’s humble beginning, it was clear that none of the work necessary to protect and restore our waterways can be done in isolation. We work alongside individuals, catchment groups, landowners, councils, businesses, community groups, schools and funders, undertaking positive work towards safeguarding water, improving ecosystem health and reversing biodiversity loss in the catchment.

Find out below who we work with and what do we do together.

person on a tree branch in the Matukituki valley

Biodiversity Strategy
with experts and the community

What might native biodiversity look like in the Upper Clutha Catchment in 100 years? This strategy sets out a future where native biodiversity helps define who we are, what we do and where we enjoy ourselves.

This approach can be used to guide actions, obtain funding, and help bring all of the different groups involved with biodiversity conservation together at a strategic level.

Kids with rubbish they collected at the Wānaka foreshore.

Community Engagement
with WAO Aotearoa

The annual WAO Summit is designed to accelerate our community towards a zero carbon future.

WAI Wānaka’s contribution to the last week-long summit was engaging with local students and the wider community as part of the schools programme and the Sustainable Communities Tour. All three events were related to water quality and ecosystem health in the Upper Clutha Basin.

In the past years, WAI Wānaka’s Food & Fibre programme delivered practical workshops, speaker events and a farm tour.

OUR PLACE community collaboration graphic - first designed for the A&P show event in 2021

A collective of community groups

Many hands make light work. There are many passionate groups in the Upper Clutha Catchment doing great work for the environment and the community.

Lead by WAI Wānaka, a group of community-based organisations come together for the annual Wānaka A&P Show to create a space for interactive and fun learning for all ages to show how land, water, flora, fauna, climate, and us humans, are all connected.

people planting natives along waterway

Riparian Planting
with Te Kākano

One way to help filter pollutants running into our waterways is to establish beneficial native plants along their edges, called riparian margins.

WAI Wānaka’s Wānaka Water Project planted 24,000 eco-sourced natives along local waterways over 5 years. The plants were funded through grants and donations from the public and raised and planted by local volunteers through Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust. The 5-year goal was reached in May 2023.

Citizen Science
with interested locals

Hands-on activities are the best way to understand your impact and getting involved creates a sense of responsibility for your environment.

WAI Wānaka has a few citizen science projects on the go with more on the horizon. Take A Walk on the Wild Side is monitoring biodiversity and water quality with local schools and volunteers. Secchi Disks can be used by interested citizens to measure water clarity and the first NZ Fluker post along the new lake Wānaka boardwalk creates a photographic record of the changes in the area.

Group of locals assessing the water quality of an urban stream flowing into lake Wānaka.

Urban Catchment Project
with the community

Currently in its infant stages, the aim of the Urban Catchment Project is to improve the health of urban streams in Wānaka through education and community-led action, ultimately culminating in the development of an Urban Catchment Plan.

The initial phase of this project ensures our community is informed about local water issues, engaged to preserve, and improve the health of urban streams and their surrounding ecosystems, take ownership of issues they can affect and support the delivery of actions that will have a positive impact for the waterways.

Matariki Community Event
with Kahu Youth

There’s no better way than to combine learning with fun! Every year, Kahu Youth organises the Wānaka Matariki celebration in collaboration with community groups, local volunteers and businesses.

The focus of this year’s event was on the nine stars of Te Kāhui o Matariki who each represent a different natural living system. WAI Wānaka represented Waitī the star connected to freshwater and all living things that inhabit rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. Each star was represented by a different environmental group including fun learning activities for all ages.


Catchment Groups
with local landowners

There are many environmental demands on rural landowners and farmers that are more easily understood and tackled as a group.

WAI Wānaka are supporting Upper Clutha landowners and have helped to establish 6 of the 7 catchment groups and 4 small landholder groups operating in the Central Lakes District.

“Experiencing Our Place”
with local education providers

Following on from the NZAEE (New Zealand Association of Environmental Education) local day in October 2022 – a small group of local environmental education providers (WAI, ORC, Enviroschools, Te Kākano and Grow Wānaka) have been working together to offer teachers place-based after school educational sessions.

Sessions include exploring local wetlands and spending time with the teams at Te Kākano nursery, Grow Wānaka community garden and WAI Wānaka on the lake.

This work comes from the recommendations made in the Blue-Sky scoping report completed by Thea DePetris for our region.


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