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Community Wellbeing


Healthy Ecosystems

Risks to our Catchment

Wānaka Water Project

We wish you, our incredible community, partners, volunteers and supporters a very happy New Year 2022!

The last year has been challenging all round and we hope 2022 will bring some renewed energy for all of us to continue working together to keep our water healthy – now and for future generations.

WAI Wānaka in 2021 at a glance

Accelerating local action for our fresh water

  • Planted almost 30,000 natives
  • Protected over 40,000m2 of riparian zones
  • Undertook pest control work
  • Designed education programmes
  • Ran workshops and events
  • Supporting summer internships and tertiary programmes
  • Forming partnerships and fostering community connection
  • Created our first booklet – This is WAI 2021
  • Working with leading experts in science and technology
  • Continuing work on the 60 actions of the Community Catchment Plan
  • Helping our community to stay ahead of regulatory policy
  • Completed the first year of the Jobs for Nature programme



For most people ‘pest plants’ and ‘weeds’ mean the same thing. When it comes to biosecurity, all pest plants are weeds but not all weeds are pest plants.

Hang on a minute, sorry, what…? 

A weed is a plant in an environment humans think it shouldn’t be in. A pest plant is a weed that is considered a biosecurity, economic or environmental risk. Keeping pests out and minimising the damage caused by established pests is essential to protect NZ’s diverse and internationally-significant environment. This environment includes our spectacular alpine lakes and many pest plants affect water quality and quantity in our catchment.

Broom is a commonly known pest plant around Wānaka. Did you know there is a range of native broom plants with gorgeous tiny purple flowers?

Broom – Cytisus scoparius (left) pest plant | Native broom – Carmichaelia (right)

What can I do?


Wild Russel Lupins

One of the more beautiful pest plants about. Unfortunately wild Russell lupins rapidly invade rocky braided river systems and the thick, bushes provide hiding places for predators of birds that are often endangered and would usually nest safely on these bare islands. The thick infestations also get in the way of water flow along these rivers, changing the ecosystem for the birds and aquatic species that rely on this habitat.

How you can help: You can hand pull or dig out small plants all year round and leave on site to rot. For further information, click here.

Lagarosiphon (Oxygen weed)

It’s hard to spell and even harder to get rid of. Lagarosiphon was once sold as a pretty decoration for aquariums and is thought to have been accidentally introduced to our waterways through disposal into drains and ponds.

It now causes trouble for our beautiful lakes. Lagarosiphon threatens the aquatic environment because its fast growth means it displaces and shades out aquatic native plants.

How you can help: Stop it spreading further by making sure you leave the weed behind. Always CHECK, CLEAN, DRY all gear you took into the water, especially your fishing gear, propeller, anchor and trailer. For further information, click here.

Gunnera (Chilean Rhubarb)

Gunnera is known to shade out other plants, form thick stands/clumps and to spread to bluffs, wet cliffs and near waterways. It is a large, clump-forming, summer-green herb, up to 2m tall with large sized leaves on sturdy stalks. Both leaves and leaf stalks are covered in rubbery red prickles.

How you can help: There was a Gunnera outbreak recorded in Lake Hāwea in April 2021. If you spot it anywhere, please inform the Guardians of Lake Hāwea. You can also remove flower spikes and dispose at landfill. For further information, click here. 

Remember: When moving between waterways, always CHECK, CLEAN, DRY all equipment. Using the revised 10 for 10 method. 10% detergent in water, leave the item wet for 10 minutes then fully dry.  


Not all weeds are a nuisance, some are fun and even have a use. Check out this Beginners guide to foraging (by thisNZlife) maybe even try dandelion salad*?

* Please make sure you check your plants carefully and only eat weeds you’re 100% certain are safe.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) 

It is easy for all of us to find dandelion leaves. They’re easy to use, available all year-round and very good for you. One cup of dandelion leaves will provide you with your daily requirement of Vitamin K and Vitamin A, a large proportion of calcium, Vitamin C, fibre and iron. This little miracle weed also contains Vitamin B6, thiamine, riboflavin and potassium, among others.


WAI Wānaka’s passionate team is on the ground, working with local individuals, catchment groups, landowners, iwi, councils, businesses, community groups and schools to improve ecosystem health, reverse biodiversity loss and keep our water healthy.

We cannot do this important work without you – our community.

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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