An enterprising zero-waste programme which has won an international award has helped Northland marae divert 3.5 tonnes of waste from landfill since it was rolled out in the region.

The Para Kore programme, a national programme designed to support marae to reduce waste which launched in 2009, has been awarded an international Globe Energy award for New Zealand.

Jaroz Popata, Te Hiku (Para Kore Far North) waste adviser, said 12 marae in Northland had signed up to the initiative since it was established in the region in August last year.

"It's awesome to work with marae who come on board. People are conscious of looking after papatuanuku [the earth], it's the pride that comes with that," she said.

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The programme has proved to be a success in Northland with 3.5 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill. About 111 tonnes of landfill had been diverted nationally.

When marae decide to jump on board with the programme they sign a contract to signify the partnership. The next step is the waste-check which involves emptying rubbish bins to audit marae waste. The rubbish is tipped out on to a tarpaulin and separated into different categories such as plastics, papers and aluminium.

Ms Popata said whanau are often shocked at how much waste can be reused and recycled.

"I think they are surprised. We just did a marae and I think only 5 per cent had to go to landfill.

"Most of it could be reused - like shellfish that could be dumped in the driveway, and the majority could be compost, so it's about reusing, at home at the marae, or vice-versa," she said.

Ms Popata said many marae in Northland already had waste schemes in place but most just needed some support in implementing them. She said an important part of the programme was the education.

Ms Popata said Para Kore provided free bilingual signage to let whanau know what to do with rubbish, along with free waste bins.

Marae whanau who are keen to get involved can contact Jaroz by emailing tehiku@parakore.maori.nz