There are simply too many good conservation projects asking for support, all of them offering volunteer time-and-energy and well-designed plans to counter local ecological challenges but needing resources to enable the actual work.
That’s the ongoing challenge facing the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust – the WCEET, and why they have partnered in a new public donation initiative with Momentum Waikato.
“Without any promotion, our funding rounds are always over-subscribed,” says WCEET Chair Gwyn Verkerk.
“So we’ve set up the WCEET Fund with Momentum Waikato, as both a new investment income stream in its own right, and to provide an easy way for the public to donate towards the expansion and long-term sustainability of this crucial local conservation funding.”
The goals of the WCEET fund are to protect and enhance wetlands, indigenous biodiversity and the sports fishery and gamebird habitat.
Its financial support has had a hugely positive impact on the Waikato and Lake Taupo catchments since it was established two decades ago. WCEET has funded 300+ conservation projects, which have collectively enhanced 2600+ hectares of wetland and 2600+ hectares of riparian habitat, with 2.43 million natives planted and predator control applied to 7200+ hectares.
“We’ve supported some truly inspirational volunteer groups, landowners and businesses dedicated to protecting and enhancing the environment,” says Gwyn.
WCEET grants rarely cover the entire undertaking, usually focussing on the supply of plants and pest control kit. Gwyn says the trustees are practical people who always want to leverage more support, so prioritise assistance that will kick-start volunteer efforts and open up help from elsewhere.
For instance, they have had great success in controlling wilding pines by funding equipment for the Taupo Mountain Bike Club to do the work. The Howick Tramping Club has been funded to buy predator poison to deploy on their regular trips to the Pureora forest, as part of Kokako recovery efforts.
“Networking is a big element of the funding process - with more partners, synergies and mentoring, the quality of the field work is constantly improving,” says Gwyn.
WCCET partnered with Fish and Game by funding them to do numerous projects restoring wetland remnants on private land in both the upper and lower reaches of the Waikato River, which have readily found local partners once they’ve got underway.
Greening Taupo’s multi-hectare-scale gully restoration project has received WCEET support in partnership with the Taupo District Council, DOC and local communities. Initially just two schools were engaged, now all the local schools are involving, and are linking the local ecology to the syllabus.
Even urban projects in Hamilton and other centres get assistance – Maeroa Intermediate kids are running a nursery and restoring their section of the Waitawhiriwhiri gully.
“What we’re seeing is a huge opportunity to accelerate the delivery and extent of ecological work across the Waikato,” says Gwyn.
“But when you have 30 applications, from hard-working and trusted organisations, and only enough money to meaningfully support a third of them, how do you decide?”
“It is a challenge, but afterwards it is clear the whole WCEET board, which is made up of people who are well aligned on delivering ecological benefits, with a strong collective understanding of our communities and stakeholders, are making the right calls.
“We make wise decisions when selecting who to fund, and I think we’ve made the right call in inviting the public to add to our funding via inviting donations to the new WCEET Fund at Momentum Waikato,” says Gwyn.
WCEET was formed in 2004 as a collaboration between Mighty River Power and conservation groups who had submitted on the re-consenting process for the company’s Waikato River dams, to manage and distribute an enhancement fund it was setting up to address their impact.
Its decision-making board therefore includes trustees from Mercury NZ (as Mighty River Power is now known), Fish and Game NZ, the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird, and the Advisory Committee on the Regional Environment - ACRE, plus an observer from the Waikato Regional Council.
Momentum Waikato Chief Executive Kelvyn Eglinton welcomes the WCEET to the community foundation’s growing portfolio of named Funds.
“The environment is one of our priority areas for support, as identified by our Vital Signs community consultations, so we are well pleased to provide investment support and donation avenues for another local conservation-focussed organisation.”
People across the Waikato who want to provide sustainable financial support to quality local conservation efforts are invited to donate, or to leave a gift in your Will, to the new WCEET Fund at Momentum Waikato.
To support the new WCEET Fund, visit momentumwaikato.nz/donate and choose the WCEET Fund option.