Waitawa Stream is on its way to becoming a healthy habitat where freshwater plants and animals can flourish.
The Waitawa Restoration Project is a collaboration of local leaders and experts in the environmental space who are working together to revitalise the mauri of the former thriving stream in the eastern suburbs of Rotorua.
Healthy Families Rotorua systems innovator, Stevee Wickliffe, says the networks and resources utilised through the collaboration have been integral to developing a robust plan to restore the wai to its natural state.
“Many people in our community thought Waitawa Stream was a drain – such was the level of its degradation. However, it was once a living and healthy body of water that contained kai that fed the local hapū. Older members of the Ngapuna community have shared their knowledge and experiences of this stream and are happy it’s being restored.
“Since commencing this project, Waitawa is being acknowledged as a stream with living ecosystems and organisms and an active group of hungatiaki to care for it,” says Stevee.
Rotorua Lakes Council allocated the group a five-metre riparian strip at Neil Hunt Park and, in late December, Stage 1 restoration work commenced with a karakia by Ngāti Hurunga-te-Rangi elders. Council has removed trees and shrubs to help clean the water of algae and weeds, and trees will be planted along the strip in the future. Trees that were removed were distributed to local marae and the community as firewood and garden mulch.
“We were thrilled to activate leadership in this space which enabled our kaupapa to get to this point. Whānau, hapū and iwi connections have been empowered from the beginning to ensure we have mana whenua leadership and involvement, and Lorraine Hall from Ngāti Hurunga-te-Rangi is now leading the project.
“I have a strong belief that building meaningful and positive relationships are at the heart of success in any collaborative initiative. It’s about leveraging networks, whanaungatanga and involving key influencers and decision-makers,” says Stevee.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council has committed funding, and the Waitawa Care Group Committee was established to ensure the prudent management of the funding. Kaupapa partners are Dr Ian Kusabs, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and Rotorua Lakes Council.
The Waitawa Restoration Project is a collaboration with Healthy Families Rotorua, local schools, kohanga reo, iwi representatives, and experts in the environmental space who provide advice and insights into the restoration of Waitawa Stream.
Healthy Families Rotorua leveraged its network to help ensure the triumphant execution of this year’s Te Arawa Kaumātua Olympics, drawing on the collective power of