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

-Margaret Mead

With the world in an unsettled state and Covid-19 in the community, it feels like a special treat to take time out with engaged students by the lakefront. Going on a journey of discovery in our own backyard, it is easy to see why connectedness to nature can enhance our emotional, physical and mental health, and reduce feelings of social isolation.

In this newsletter we celebrate community collaboration. We are excited about working together with other groups and the wider community and give you an update on what’s been happening so far this year in WAI Wānaka’s thriving education programme.


Project spotlight

Take a walk on the wild side

This project is an ongoing study of the impact of QLDC’s lakefront development on biodiversity, water quality and community values. It is a collaboration between WAI Wānaka, Mount Aspiring College (MAC) and community partners.

A highlight from the recent workshop with students from MAC and spider expert James Crofts-Bennett(Otago University), was learning to identify the little critters living in the area, creating and placing spider houses for ongoing biodiversity monitoring and learning that spiders can not only fly, using atmospheric electricity but reach up to 4km of height above the earth’s surface – mind blown!

Students at WAI Wānaka

Having interns and students from the community working with us at WAI is a wonderful two-way exchange of knowledge and opportunities for both sides.

An education in eels

Our summer intern this year was Aaliyah Pakau-Timoti from Massey University in Palmerston North. She is studying for a Bachelor of Animal Science majoring in breeding and genetics. Her project at WAI was using eDNA (environmental DNA) technology to understand where Tuna (NZ longfin eels) are located in the Upper Clutha Basin. Read the full story here.

Gateway Student

We are excited to have Monty Hewson from Mount Aspiring College join us as a gateway student. Monty is interested in working on farms and will join WAI Wānaka one day a week. She will learn about the environmental work being carried out on local farms across the catchment and work alongside our field team. WAI Wānaka is excited to connect local rangatahi with career opportunities here at home in the Upper Clutha.

The Wāhine of WAI

With International Women’s Day just past, we celebrate the powerful and passionate bunch of ladies that are part of WAI Wānaka!


Spider houses

A shared effort to monitor biodiversity

The creation of the spider houses was a collaboration between the Wānaka Community Workshop, WAI Wānaka and students from Mount Aspiring College. 

If you see any of the houses on your walk, please do not touch or open them as this upsets the research data. If you would like to participate in this study, please sign up as a volunteer.

Nassella Tussock

Pest control with ORC

In collaboration with the Otago Regional Council, the WAI Wānaka field teams have been working hard grubbing out Nassella Tussock in the Cardrona Valley – one of only a few areas around New Zealand affected. 

Originally from Argentina and brought in for stock production, Nassella Tussock is now classified as a pest plant. It reduces pasture quality and affects environmental values by displacing native species in tussock grassland.

Image: Emma (WAI Wānaka field worker) is talking to Richard (Bio-security Lead ORC) about how to identify and remove Nassella Tussock.


A youth-led environmental programme

‘Grounded’ is a new programme recently launched by Kahu Youth that will see experts in education and environment – including WAI Wānaka – encourage youth to explore issues that are important to them such as native biodiversity, water quality, air quality and climate change. Find out more.


Volunteers at a planting session at Scaifes Lagoon in collaboration with Te Kākano.

get involved

Become part of our team of amazing volunteers. Fill in our questionnaire and let us know how you would like to participate in protecting our waterways for future generations.

Make a donation

Your gift will help fund our work, including education programmes, native planting, pest control, biodiversity monitoring, scientific research and (most importantly), tools for community collaboration.

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