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 1,000 plants remain to be planted this autumn!

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.

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 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.

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.

Communities of Practice
with other Jobs for Nature recipients

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
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.


Newsletters & Updates

  • Microplastics research project kicks off in Wānaka
    WAI Wānaka has initiated research into microplastics in local freshwater environments following funding success from The Otago Participatory Science Platform, Curious Minds, Ten Square Games … Read more
  • Community Stormwater Action
    Community groups join WAI in protecting waterways from stormwater pollution The Drains are Streams programme is ramping up at WAI. Both in the classroom and … Read more
  • August Newsletter
    Is the health of our lakes changing? When it comes to the deep lakes of our region, caring for the unseen can be challenging. Monitoring … Read more
  • Adopt a Drain – Winter
    Winter is here, and so is our ‘Adopt a Drain’ newsletter – winter edition! Don’t let the cold fool you – our actions still matter, … Read more
  • Winter updates
    It’s Plastic Free July and we’re excited to be diving deeper into A Teeny-Tiny Truth, a research project exploring microplastics in Lake Wānaka. Plastic Free July isn’t … Read more
  • Water Citizen Scientists unite!
    Hey there, welcome to the water clarity data collection community! We’ve got something pretty cool to tell you about – ever heard of a Secchi … Read more
  • May 2023 Newsletter
    We’ve been gearing up for some exciting new community projects and initiatives here at WAI. We are thrilled to announce we have received funding to … Read more
  • Adopt a Drain – Autumn
    Welcome to the ‘Adopt a Drain’ community! We are thrilled to share the first edition of our seasonal ‘Adopt a Drain’ newsletter with you. This … Read more