WAI Wānaka turns 5

From three passionate part time volunteers in 2016 to a dedicated workforce of 44, a lot has changed in WAI Wānaka’s five year evolution. WAI Wānaka is a charitable trust started by people from different backgrounds who all shared similar concerns about water.

This group first came together with the goal of increasing freshwater communication and collaboration across the Upper Clutha.

Mandy Bell, Chair of WAI Wānaka, says the work of the trust quickly expanded to take a whole of basin, whole of community approach. “Our work connects the rural, urban and tourism sectors to achieve the common goal of keeping our environment in a state we are proud to pass on to future generations.”

Looking at freshwater as part of the whole ecosystem, WAI Wānaka now undertakes a range of activities to enhance the environment and engage the community in working towards the twin outcomes of community wellbeing and healthy ecosystems.

From working with landowners to develop environmental plans, carrying out urban stormwater research and co-creating education programmes with local primary schools, WAI works closely with partner organisations to increase knowledge and understanding of how we protect and enhance our local environment.

“We’re lucky in Wānaka to have such an engaged community. So many of us love being outdoors and appreciate what we have here, so are motivated to protect it”, says Julie Perry, manager of WAI Wānaka.

“a big part of wai’s role is connecting the dots and achieving more by working with others. the more we do together, the more ideas blossom.”

Julie Perry, manager of WAI Wānaka

Under the Jobs for Nature programme, funded through Ministry for Primary Industry, WAI Wānaka employs locals to carry out planting, pest control, wilding pine control and biodiversity and freshwater monitoring on local farms.

Upper Clutha landowners are working proactively towards achieving their environmental goals and are engaged in this programme to help fast track that work. Alongside practical work on the ground, workshops on topics such as agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity monitoring and water testing are being carried out. This work is aligned with local, regional and national policies, as well as factoring in industry and market led requirements for environmental reporting.  

An education programme with Holy Family and Makarora Primary schools, ‘Farmers as Kaitiaki’, is giving Wānaka primary school students an overview of farming in the Upper Clutha, and how landowners can impact the local environment.

As WAI Wānaka looks forward to the next five years, Mandy notes that there is much more yet to do.

“We are excited by the growing capabilities of our team to carry out this work and to be engaging with scientists, experts and educators to make the work we do enduring.”  

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