Otago Catchment Group Award Winners 2022 – WAI Wānaka


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WAI Wānaka was built on collaboration through the merging of three aligned organisations in 2018: Lake Wānaka Trust, The Upper Clutha Water Group and a group looking to establish an Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre.

Their mission is “Healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing for future generations.” The mission is delivered by working together and empowering communities to understand their water, their environment and their impact.

In 2019 WAI Wānaka established five action groups in the Upper Lakes rohe – Cardrona, Maungawera, Lake Hāwea, Luggate and Whakatipu – to work with landowners and businesses and support on the ground action including water testing, regenerative farming, riparian planting, farm plans, biodiversity monitoring and wetland restoration. Today, they are actively engaging with 84% of the larger farms in the Upper Clutha catchment, involving more than 60 properties greater than 20 Ha.

When the government announced the Jobs for Nature funding programme in May 2020, WAI Wānaka recognised the opportunity to utilise their whole-of-basin planning approach to support interconnected environmental, sustainability, economic and social resilience outcomes. They secured $3 million to employ 15 full-time staff over three years to undertake environmental activities on farm properties in the Upper Clutha. Over the last 18 months, the number of people working for WAI Wānaka has increased from five to 44, supplemented by over 5,000 volunteer hours contributing to their mahi each year.

With guidance and input from across the basin combining experts, community groups, landowners, contractors and regulators, WAI Wānaka has developed interconnected strategies and trained field crews to carry out weed control, animal pest control, planting, plant maintenance and biodiversity and freshwater monitoring on farms.

WAI Wānaka entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the opportunity to share their work with others and hope they may inspire catchment groups in other communities to connect more broadly and work collaboratively to achieve their goals. The Awards also provide opportunities for them to learn from other catchment groups around New Zealand.

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