"The restoration of the environment and its people, it doesn’t get much better than that." Imagining a future where all Waikato children can have access to rivers with safe places to swim and healthy water to drink, the partnership between Sustainable Coastlines and Pūniu River Care aims to plant 80 million native trees to enhance the waters and replenish the mauri (life force) of the Pūniu River catchment.
The Vital Waikato Grant will assist a unique partnership where Sustainable Coastline’s knowledge and expertise will support Pūniu River Care’s passion and commitment to healthy waterways. The initiative will transform riparian restoration in the region – removing cost barriers to improving water quality and creating employment opportunities for the people in the Waikato who need it most.
The initiative aims to create a model where a marae-based social enterprise collaborates with local hapu, iwi, school groups and prisons to grow, nurture, sell and plant local, eco-sourced plants on their own land and in Department of Corrections prison within the river catchment.
With real-life leaning opportunities for hapu, prisoners and community service workers, the knowledge gained can be transferred to ‘real world’ jobs. The experiences will upskill hapu so they can become kaitiaki (guardians) of the natural environment and continue to inspire communities into the future, based on what they have learned.
This scalable, disruptive model has the potential to benefit the 440,000 people who call the Waikato region home. Through a simple economic efficiency and combination of social and environmental benefits, there is an opportunity to prove that a local, flax-roots project based in the Waikato can innovate and inform water quality projects across the region, nationwide and internationally.
By ‘open-sourcing’ and sharing knowledge and resources to provide ongoing support for new social enterprises in our region, the aim is to accelerate much needed change. How? By enabling communities throughout the Waikato to access resources and build a region-wide movement that creates safe places, healthy water, and healthy people for generations to come.