Community Awards' winners announced
Environmental champions were recognised at the 25th Environment Southland Community Awards in Invercargill on Friday night.
Environment Southland Chairman Nicol Horrell said the judges were impressed with the breadth and depth of the entries with everyone from runanga to farmers to café owners and school children entering.
“The judges were delighted by the community connections of entrants, the innovation, technology and sustainability on show, the growing environmental awareness of children, and the extremely wide scope of projects and initiatives being undertaken in Southland.”
The awards were the longest running awards in the regional council sector, he said.
“We are very proud of the calibre of entrants and the recognition they give to Southlanders working hard and doing the right thing for our environment.”
There were a record number of nominees this year from all corners of the region, which was fantastic to see, he said.
Chairman Horrell said that judging had been very demanding due to Covid-19, with timeframes being compressed down from a couple of months to just a few weeks.
“I’d like to acknowledge our judges for their commitment in trying circumstances and to thank our sponsors and supporters, without whom, the awards wouldn’t be what they are today.”
The 2021 judges were Councillors Lyndal Ludlow and David Stevens and Environment Southland general manager integrated catchment Paul Hulse.
The winners are:
Councillors’ Special Award
Sponsored by Environment Southland Councillors
Winner - Deep Cove Nature Guides Programme
A visit to Deep Cove is a rite of passage for many Southland students but this trip is much more than just a school camp. This trip leaves a lasting impression and can develop a lifelong relationship with the environment. Thanks to a special partnership between the Deep Cove Outdoor Education Trust and Real Journeys, when students visit Deep Cove they get to experience this unique landscape with the help of a Nature Guide.
Real Journeys staff are trained as Nature Guides and they accompany teachers and students into Deep Cove to help them explore the area and understand what is around them. The Nature Guides programme ensures that students gain the most out of their experience and takes some of the pressure off schools to deliver education in an area that may not be a strength for them.
Environmental Action in the Community
Sponsored by Real Journeys
Winner - Murihiku Kai Collective
The Murihiku Kai Collective consists of several community groups and individuals working together to ensure that Southland has access to good food. It was formed after a Healthy Families study on the local food system highlighted concerns around access to affordable and nutritious food. It also highlighted a lack of leadership within our community – and the need for a collective vision.
It is working in a range of areas to effect change, including working with the Invercargill City Council parks and recreation team to increase edible plantings, an education space to create a wider understanding of how to grow food from seeds and intergenerational harvesting, and enabling community crop sharing through food pantries.
This project is truly a seed to plate initiative, and they understand that the strength of their group is the people that are involved and the amazing knowledge they bring with them.
Highly Commended – Ainsley Adams – Mid Ōreti Catchment Group
Individual Environmental Action or Leadership
Sponsored by ANZ
Winner - Jesse Bythell
Jesse Bythell speaks for the trees.
Jesse works for the QEII National Trust so is heavily involved with the environment in a work capacity looking after 222 registered covenants. Her success can be put down to strong relationship skills and her willingness to work with landowners in their time.
She has been on the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network committee for almost 10 years and helps to run their website among many other things. In her limited spare time she has organised friends to go on weekend horse treks to clear wilding pines. She has also gained funding to develop a guide for others interested in undertaking similar treks, called the "Conifer Cavalry".
Environmental Action in Education
Sponsored by Department of Conservation
Winner - SIT Microplastics Project
With growing awareness of the dangers of microplastics – a group of SIT students and tutors decided to investigate the scale of the issue in Southland waterways. The 2019 investigation into the number of microplastics was conducted in two Invercargill waterways. From these investigations the SIT Microplastics project has grown with an aim of raising public awareness of microplastics. This project has been driven by SIT’s Environmental Management department, and they have had strong collaboration with WasteNet Southland and Environment Southland
They have launched the Micro Investigators website and several schools have now completed stream studies and added to knowledge about microplastics and their impact on the natural habitat.
Environmental Leadership in Farming
Sponsored by Wynn Williams
Winner - Leon & Wendy Black
Leon & Wendy Black’s sheep are setting a cool trend – with a 30% forecast drop in methane emissions from their flock. The well-known couple own Blackdale Stud, a sheep farm at Ermedale, near Riverton, and their work in sheep genetics is gaining them national and international recognition.
Leon suggested that genetic options were worth considering when it came to reducing carbon emissions, and their work in breeding low methane emitting sheep is now one of the only projects like it in the world. They are forecasting a 30% drop in methane production from their main flock, while also reporting higher fleece and weight rates. The Blacks see it as an investment in the long term and the plan is to continue to breed lower and lower methane producing sheep.
Environmental Action in Biodiversity & Biosecurity
Sponsored by ILT
Winner - Ōreti Tōtara Dune Forest
The Ōreti Tōtara Dune Forest’s rare ecological values are being protected for present and future generations to enjoy. The forest was purchased in 2020 following a huge fundraising effort by the trust set up to look after it. It comprises about 40ha of totara forest on dunes, with areas of ancient matai forest and patches of kahikatea, along with large old manuka and tī kōuka (cabbage trees), rising above extensive areas of mingimingi.
The trust has undertaken an immense amount of work to restore the forest including, temporary and permanent fencing to exclude livestock, reinstating water into wetlands, walking tracks created, signage and pamphlets produced, carpark built, a pest and weed control plan introduced and hundreds of key species planted to reinstate plants lost to grazing.
They have also created a management plan to ensure the ongoing future success of the forest. A QEII covenant application was approved in August.
Environmental Action in Water Quality Improvement
Sponsored by Fish & Game Southland
Winner - Hokonui Rūnanga
Hokonui Rūnanga’s environmental arm is seriously impressive. The Hokonui Rūnanga Kaupapa Taiao programme started in December 2020. The purpose of this programme was to ensure the rūnanga increased capacity across the Mataura catchment with a focus on Mātauranga Māori. They identified a need to develop a specialist set of skills to support the delivery of their environmental projects and have recently gained funding from LINZ and DOC – Jobs for Nature.
One of their most established and well-known projects has been the restoration of the low-lying areas on their property in Gore into a series of connecting wetlands.
Other projects include, the Kōura breeding programme, and the Mataitai project in Mataura, at New Zealand’s first freshwater reserve, which involves monitoring the migration of Kanakana (lamprey) and trap and transferring upstream. The rūnanga are now planning to tackle pest and weed control and restorative planting, and have established their own nursery.
Highly Commended – ACE Group (Aparima Community Environment Group)
Environmental Leadership and Innovation in Business
Sponsored by AON
Winner - Farm 4 Life
Farm 4 Life recognised a serious problem within the dairy industry workforce in that 70% of that workforce were leaving after year one. They identified a lack of training, and that opportunities for further education and learning were often reserved for farm owners or managers. They wanted to see the right information passed from the “horse’s mouth to the gumboot”.
Tangaroa Walker and John Schol have worked together to create ‘The Hub’ as an innovative solution. This platform allows people to sign up to content carefully created by industry experts to educate and inspire best practice.
In conjunction with Dairy NZ, Farm 4 Life have created a series of videos dedicated to best wintering practices. This content is broken down into short videos which cover 1-2 learning points. After each video, those watching have their learning tracked through random quiz questions which ensures understanding.
Highly Commended – The Batch Cafe