Whāingaroa Environment Centre (WEC) was started in 1997 by a group of locals concerned about erosion and other environmental problems in, and around Whāingaroa (Raglan) Harbour.
The Whaingaroa Environment Catchment Plan was developed from five years of community discussions and meetings, aimed at creating a sustainable environment. One of the recommendations of the plan was to create an Environment Centre and Whaingaroa Environment Centre (WEC) was established in 1997.
The centre has evolved to become a vital hub for environmental sustainability in the community and a champion for Māui Dolphin conservation in New Zealand. WEC recognises the link between healthy nature and healthy people and their projects collaborate across a range of community groups. They are supporting local seabird restoration, championing a Plastic Bag Free Raglan, connecting people with a Timebank, run a tool library, a seed bank, crop swaps, drive the community gardens and run a Junior Enviro Club in local schools.
The Whāingaroa Environment Centre have championed a positive community approach to marine conservation, recognising the importance of working together and the vital link between our actions on land and the sea.
The Whaingaroa catchment flows into the west coast waters which are home to the Popoto or Māui Dolphin, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world. It’s survival depends on how our coastal communities change their behaviour to reduce these threats and bring back our iconic dolphin.
Numerous Raglan Community groups have worked together to support the dolphin (these have included Whāingaroa Harbour Care planting over 1 million trees, fencing over 600kms of harbour and stream edge, Xtreme Zero Waste preventing leachate from old landfill and installing and servicing enviropods in all storm water entering the Harbour, Whaingaroa Environment Centre conducting water quality advocacy, implementing the Catchment Plan and championing a Plastic Bag Free Raglan and KASM assessing and submitting on sea bed mining applications). These projects have had a major positive impact on the Harbour and coastal environment with a radical increase in biological abundance and diversity.
For the past 14 years the Whāingaroa Environment Centre (WEC) has been running Māui Dolphin Day to celebrate the work the community have been doing, and to share the latest about the Dolphin and what’s next in terms of its recovery plan. WEC continues to work with the community and a number of other organisations like WWF and the Department of Conservation to save Māui Dolphins.
Each year, WEC puts in a huge effort on very limited resources, to pull this amazing day together. It features the Xtreme Zero Waste Recycled Raft Race and is the largest community day in Raglan!
They have been tireless in their efforts, and over the years have led numerous other Māui Dolphin Conservation projects (including bringing in celebrities like Peggy Oki and Tiki Taane). WEC have remained positive in their approach to marine conservation and continue to focus on positive action and collaborative community celebration, highlighting the importance of our marine environment, our whanau and our community’s creativity and spirit.
The work of WEC is a true expression of healthy seas, healthy people. They continue to seek, lead and support projects and positive actions our coastal communities can take to reduce threats to our ocean, encouraging lasting behaviour change for healthier people and healthier seas – for us and for our iconic dolphin.
Nominated by Andrew Styche, Department of Conservation – Waikato District Office on 14 November 2017