Waitao community celebrates success

Locals from Tauranga’s Waitao community gathered together last night to celebrate and see the 2016 National River Story Award that they won at the Morgan Foundation River Awards ceremony in Wellington earlier this month.

Waitao Care Group Chairman David Hooker received the award on behalf of the community at the Wellington ceremony. He said that was an honour but it was even more special to be able to bring it the award home and celebrate with the people who had earned it.
“The award belongs to everyone that’s been involved in restoring the Waitao River and Rangataua Estuary since 2001. We all pitch in with paperwork, monitoring, planting days, and nursery working bees. Everyone contributes what they can and together we get things done. Last night’s celebration was in true Waitao style; just a casual BBQ and a chance to catch up and congratulate each other,” said Mr Hooker.
One of the contributing landowners is Pirihima Whānau Trust which is restoring wetlands near the river mouth. Pirihima Trustee Wayne Hudson said that restoring kaimoana (seafood) has been a key driver for his whānau.
“Tom and Hinenui Cooper from Ngā Potiki paved the way for us by working with NIWA in the early 2000s to monitor changes in the awa (river). They helped build connections with landowners in the upper catchment that were replanting waterways on their properties. Now our whānau is building on that work. We all want the same thing and we’re working together as a whole community to achieve it,” Mr Hudson said.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder also attended last night’s celebration, to congratulate and say thank you to the volunteers who earned the award.
“Everyone has a part to play in keeping waterways clean and the Waitao community are an inspiration to us all. As a Regional Council we’re proud to have been able to assist them with practical advice and funding support. This kind of collaboration is key to improving regional water quality and the health of Te Awanui Tauranga Harbour which the Waitao flows into.
The National River Story award recognises inspirational examples of a community or an individual working hard to restore the health of their local river. A video about the Waitao community’s work to care for their local river was created by the NZ Rivers Trust and Morgan Foundation. It can be viewed at www.boprc.govt.nz/taurangaharbour.
For further media information please contact Katrina Knill, Communications Partner, on 0800 884 880 or (021) 989 666.