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, iwi, 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.

Volunteers planting natives at Glendhu wetland (Scaifes Lagoon) with WAI Wānaka and Te Kākano.

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.

The goal of WAI Wānaka’s Wānaka Water Project is to plant 24,000 eco-sourced natives along local waterways over 5 years. The plants are funded through grants and donations from the public and raised and planted by local volunteers through Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust. To reach our 5-year goal, only just over 3,000 plants remain to be planted next spring!

Experts at a Food & Fibre event organised by WAI Wānaka talk about a better future for NZ farming

Food & Fibre event series
with WAO Aotearoa

The annual WAO Summit is designed to accelerate our community towards a zero carbon future with a series of events highlighting the efforts of local businesses and community groups.

WAI Wānaka’s Food & Fibre programme delivers everything from practical workshops (monitoring on-farm biodiversity and water quality), speaker events covering the latest in science, practice change and consumer demand, to a farm tour visiting local properties, meeting the farmers and hearing firsthand how they are making positive environmental changes.

A group of year 8 students volunteer at WAI Wānaka's stand at the Matariki celebration

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.

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 came together for the 2021 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.

WAI Wānaka volunteer taking water samples.

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 next summer. Take A Walk on the Wild Side is monitoring biodiversity and water quality with local schools and volunteers. BioBlitz events create a snapshot of a small area’s plants and creatures 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.

Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Over a period of 3 months in early 2022, WAI Wānaka has been supported by the Jobs for Nature Secretariat and Ministry for Primary Industry to understand the needs of community organisations in the region and propose a Community of Practice model.


Action Groups

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.

News & Updates

  • The more we know, the better we do!
    E mao ana ki ua, e ua ana ki mao.It is fine until it rains, it rains until it’s fine. Welcome to WAI Wānaka’s winter update! It’s… Read more
  • Science Blog – future research
    Kia ora kotou, Time for a further update on research in the Upper Clutha. Previous science blogs have covered historic and current research in our… Read more
  • Knowledge into Action for Te Taiao
    WAI Wānaka has been working with the Upper Clutha community since 2016 to protect and enhance ecosystem health and community wellbeing across rural, urban and… Read more
  • Better together
    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… Read more
  • WAI Wānaka news
    Welcome to the latest WAI Wānaka newsletter! Find out what’s been happening, learn about upcoming events and how you can get involved. We are also looking… Read more
  • Fostering behaviours of belonging
    WAI Wānaka’s relationship with schools is flourishing. More tamariki and rangatahi are getting involved in environmental mahi, and more local schools want to work with WAI. We need your help to make it happen.
  • Science Blog – current research
    This is WAI Wānaka’s second science blog post. Find out about some recent research that has been happening within our Alpine Lakes. This list is by no extent exhaustive, but highlights some key bits of work occurring.
  • Community spirit at it’s best!
    In this newsletter we celebrate the spirit of working together and give you an update on what’s been happening so far this year in WAI Wānaka’s thriving education programme.