WAI Wanaka

Promoting Aotearoa New Zealand as clean, green, and pristine is becoming increasingly challenging due to ecological issues caused by climate change and human activity. In Wānaka, a passionate group called WAI Wānaka aims to safeguard and enhance water quality, ecosystem function, and biodiversity in the Upper Clutha basin. They work closely with individuals, community groups, iwi, landowners, and businesses to build healthy ecosystems and support community wellbeing. This case study explores how WAI Wānaka addressed the challenge of supporting local landowners to understand and reduce their environmental impact while fostering community engagement.

The Challenge

WAI Wānaka recognised the need to empower local landowners to understand the environmental impact of their operations, make informed decisions, and take meaningful actions. However, existing data only provided a regional perspective, making it challenging to assess individual catchment-level impact accurately. Without this understanding, landowners struggled to enact change and measure the effects of their actions. Additionally, there was a lack of clear guidance on actionable steps for landowners to take.

How EAS Helped

WAI Wānaka partnered with EAS, receiving funding from the Sustainable Business Network and the Ministry for Primary Industries. Together, they developed a catchment-wide monitoring system, initiated a waterway cleanup program, and provided education for landowners. Collaborating with regional partners and stakeholders such as the Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Department of Conservation, NIWA, and Lake Wanaka Tourism, EAS ensured that their solution aligned with the needs of all stakeholders.

Based on feedback and input, EAS assisted WAI Wānaka in designing and implementing a program that catered to these needs, including planning for catchment-wide monitoring systems. EAS trained WAI Wānaka staff on greenhouse gas accounting in the agricultural sector, contextualising it within the emerging He Waka Eka Noa regulation. This equipped WAI Wānaka staff to support landowners in calculating their greenhouse gas footprints, enabling them to identify necessary changes to meet their obligations. Additionally, EAS provided reporting templates and FAQ materials to facilitate communication and capacity building among landowners.

Moreover, EAS facilitated the implementation of the Jobs for Nature program in the region, generating new jobs and aiding in the planting of trees to enhance waterway cleanliness.

The Result

Through the support of EAS, WAI Wānaka achieved significant progress in the region, empowering landowners to make meaningful changes and understand available options to meet the government’s proposed reduction targets for the sector. The majority of landowners in the catchment participated in greenhouse gas footprint assessments with WAI Wānaka and actively engaged in the Jobs for Nature program. These solutions provided ongoing value by enabling stakeholders to provide annual progress reports, facilitating better monitoring of the catchment’s environmental, social, and economic health.

What’s Next

EAS continues to collaborate with WAI Wānaka on this project. Currently, the team is developing a comprehensive catchment-wide monitoring system for WAI, which will yield more data to assess its effectiveness and further progress towards cleaner waterways and reduced greenhouse emissions in the region.

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