NZAEE Seaweek is delighted to announce that the NZAEE Seaweek “Ocean Champion” for 2016 is Taranaki community group the Friends of Waitara River.
The New Zealand Coastal Society (NZCS) is sponsoring the initiative by donating $500 prize money for the winner which was presented by NZCS Deputy Chair Hugh Leersnyder at tonight’s Marine Conservation Futures and the Legacy of Bill Ballantine event at the University of Auckland.
“NZAEE Seaweek and the New Zealand Coastal Society congratulate the Friends of Waitara River and all of this year’s nominees for inspiring us all with their work. They are all Ocean Champions and anyone can be one, just by taking care of their local beach. That’s the kind of guardianship that we hope the Ocean Champions programme will inspire in everyone,” Hugh said.
NZAEE Seaweek National Coordinator Dr Mels Barton was delighted that the Friends of Waitara River had come out on top.
“The Ocean Champion initiative celebrates all those individuals, groups and organizations who work so hard to look after our seas and the marine life that lives in them. It is wonderful to have a winner who is so typical of the hundreds of small community organisations that work tirelessly to protect our marine and freshwater environment. This group has been campaigning in their local community for clean water for over 35 years and we are delighted to be able to recognise and celebrate their achievement“ she said.
The theme for NZAEE’s Seaweek 2015 is “Toiora te Moana – Toiora te Tangata – Healthy Seas, Healthy People”. The theme highlights how important it is to look after the sea in order to maintain our own health and wellbeing.
The collaboration between NZAEE SeaWeek and the NZCS coastalsociety.org.nz is a partnership that will continue and expand for the benefit of New Zealand’s ocean and coastal communities.
More than 200 events are scheduled around the country during NZAEE Seaweek 2016 from February 27 to March 6, and these are all listed on the NZAEE Seaweek website at www.seaweek.org.nz.
You can see all the Seaweek 2016 Ocean Champion nominees here: http://seaweek.org.nz/nominate-your-ocean-champion/
NZAEE Seaweek 2016 is coordinated by the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE) and proudly supported by Foundation North, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries , University of Otago: NZ Marine Studies Centre, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Environment Canterbury Regional Council, National Aquarium of New Zealand, Napier City Council, DSP Print Group Ltd, New Zealand Coastal Society and many local sponsors.
Friends of Waitara River traces its origins back to 1980 and the hearings into the establishment of the Motunui plant (now methanol but back then a Think Big flagship project turning gas into petrol) with their long sea outfall for waste. This was then followed in 1982 by a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal and the subsequent hearing into discharging waste to water around Waitara. The Friends of Waitara River have continued in various forms, advocating for the water, the river, the beach and surrounding sea environments ever since, as well as being active in environmental projects, including extensive plantings of natives to filter runoff and preserve breeding grounds for kokopu. The issues have continued for 35 years and so have some of the group members but the need for the advocacy role played by these people has never been greater as water quality continues to decline.
From its inception, this group has been a genuine partnership between Tangata Whenua and Pakeha and the local hapu continues to appoint its representatives to the group and work in full cooperation. The threat to traditional kaimoana reefs in the area have been a significant focus from the start and a symbol of the health and cultural importance of clean sea. While the word “river” is in the name of this group, the focus has always been on clean water in the inshore areas around Waitara and the state of the river water has had a major negative effect on the ocean and the local kaimoana reefs.
The New Zealand Coastal Society was formed in 1992 to promote and advance knowledge and understanding of the coastal zone. It provides a forum for those with an interest in the coastal zone to communicate amongst themselves and to the public.