Our Waitarakao - that's a wrap for 2023

The past year has been extremely busy for the Our Waitarakao project.

Here's a summary of what we've been up to in 2023.

Waitarakao Washdyke Lagoon open day - Sea Week

More than 130 people visited the lagoon during this special community event on 11 March to explore the rock pools, share their stories, and learn about the environment and the issues facing the lagoon and its wider catchment. This event also helped raise awareness of the upcoming project and reinforced that the community would be invited to get involved.

Community feedback - what you told us in June/July 2023

South Canterbury people provided a wealth of information, ideas and stories over winter 2023 when the Our Waitarakao project engaged with the local community on its plan for a catchment strategy.

The campaign was highly visible, with many locals mentioning they had seen the digital billboards, MyWay bus backs, press stories and ads, and information on the Our Waitarakao Facebook page.

There was a great turn-out to the public drop-in events, as well as visits to the stall at the Timaru Artisan Farmers Market, and collaborative events at the local museum and Eco Centre. The community also completed 170 surveys and submitted more than 90 ‘ideas and stories’ to the project team.

Results from all feedback - including events, surveys, and additional stakeholder meetings – were overwhelmingly supportive of the creation of a joint strategy to restore the health and mauri (lifeforce) of the lagoon and catchment. This was reinforced by more than 100 people, businesses and organisations who offered to be involved in future workshops to help develop the strategy.

In the community survey, the top four areas of concern were: loss of wetland and plant habitat; declining water quality in the lagoon from urban and rural activity; erosion of the beach, lagoon and coastal land; and disturbance of bird nesting areas from motorised vehicles, humans and dogs.

There was also a lot of feedback that people have experienced litter and rubbish when visiting the lagoon as well as requests for better active transport links to the lagoon area.

You can read more detail about the community feedback received here.

Focused community engagement – workshop series

More than 40 people with a great variety of experience and backgrounds took part in one or more of a series of three half-day workshops at the South Canterbury Eco Centre in Timaru, during October and November.

Those who attended had either put themselves forward at the public engagement events earlier in 2023, or had been recommended as a community member with strong knowledge or experience within the catchment.

The workshops included presentations from the project partners, interactive activities, and feedback sessions. The participants shared their experiences of the lagoon catchment area and their aspirations for its future. They also discussed current issues and challenges facing the lagoon, such as water quality, habitat loss, flooding, erosion, and climate change, and gave feedback on actions that could be prioritised.

The qualitative feedback from the workshops will – along with information from project partners and other resources – help inform the drafting of the strategy.

What’s next - strategy development

The draft strategy – with the vision to improve the mauri (life force) of the catchment for everyone – is now being developed, informed by community feedback and expertise contributed by the four project partners.

The draft strategy will be for the whole Waitarakao Washdyke catchment area, as activity in the wider area impacts the health of the lagoon through the many streams, drains and neighbouring businesses, farms, and properties. Flooding risk and the impacts of climate change will also be considered in the draft strategy.

The draft strategy will be shared with the community for feedback in 2024.

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