Waitao-Kaiate Environmental Group

A neighbourhood project to restore the banks of the Waitao Stream has had the additional benefit of restoring community spirit. That's the inspiring story of the journey taken by the Waitao-Kaiate Environmental Group and their work to clean up the Waitao Stream and maintain the natural beauty of the Kaiate Falls.

It was the threat of a landfill site at the top of their valley that first brought the Waitao Road residents together. United by their common goals of keeping heavy trucks off their quiet rural road and protecting their stream from contaminants, neighbours in the middle and upper catchment joined forces. They eventually succeeded in stopping the dump and as an added bonus, they got to know each other over countless cups of tea!

Local hapu, with their marae at the bottom of the catchment, had been working to enhance the lower reaches of the stream, with assistance from NZ Landcare Trust and NIWA. They shared their knowledge with their upstream neighbours through workshops and in 2008 the groups joined forces to form the 'Waitao-Kaiate Environmental Group'.This reinvigorated community went on to take up the challenge of improving overall water quality within the stream.

The founders wanted a corridor of bush along a pristine stream – a place for birds to live and kids to play.

The Environmental Group quickly developed a 10 year strategic plan and a structure of six sub-committees that dealt with specific aspects of the work. Creating a formal group helped with access to council funds and advice.

Members of the planting group began with their own properties, before using their experience to support other keen landowners with riparian fencing and planting. They tend to plant out larger plants (1 m tall or so) to compete with the grass and gorse. It saves time spent on weeding!