When I tell people that I spend a lot of my time running coastal clean-ups, one of the most common things I hear from people is criticism of their council or the government for them not doing it.

What I have come to realise is that councils and governments are there to serve and support the people who elect them. That is to say that they are there to follow the will of their electorate, not lead them.

By far the best solutions that I have seen over the years have come from a community level. I am now convinced that if you want something to change, you have to get up off your critical backside and do something about it yourself.

A great example of this is Para Kore (which means 'Zero Waste' in Te Reo Maori). The Para Kore programme works with marae to increase the reuse, recycling and composting of materials thereby helping to reduce our dependence on extraction of natural resources and raw materials.


It is call to action that aims to end the current 'take, make, and dispose' mentality of human society, which has shamefully seen our consumption of materials statistics being some of the worst in the world.

The goal of Para Kore is that every marae in Aotearoa is working towards Zero Waste by 2020 and the beautiful thing is that because it has been developed by the people, for the people, it is actually working.

They are working in over 80 marae across eight regions of Aotearoa and have managed to divert a whopping 100,000kgs of waste from landfills through this process.

It would be amazing to think the exponential influence that this would have also had on the people who visit the marae and take home the lessons.

One example - at Puniho Pā in coastal Taranaki - shows comprehensive data that proves a land fill diversion rate of over 75 per cent in which six tonnes of waste has been diverted through reusing, recycling, composting and pig scraps.

Rachael Ruakere, who lives on the pā with her whānau, says that the Para Kore program has helped the marae to raise awareness on waste minimisation and recycling.

"We use the Para Kore resources - the bins and signage. We feel it is important to protect Papatūānuku and be more conscious of how we live. For us as a whānau, we try and live a more sustainable life by growing our own food, heating our water with solar panels and of course being part of the ParaKore movement."

It is clear that Para Kore talks to the values of the people involved in it - another reason why community-driven initiatives can be so effective.

Para Kore project manager Jacqui Forbes says, "Para Kore is very much grounded in traditional Māori beliefs of caring for Papatūānuku and Ranginui: riro taonga mai, hoki taonga atu - we receive valuable resources from Papatūānuku, we return valuable resources to her."

"Marae are really enthusiastic about the programme. They embrace its environmental values and it saves them money too," says Jacqui.

So next time you think about kicking up a stink about what elected officials are or are not doing, think about how a project like Para Kore might create a better more sustainable solution and drop me a line if you have think you have a great idea in the pipeline like this.