Weekly column by Kāpiti's Greater Wellington Regional Council representative Penny Gaylor.
The wellbeing of freshwater is a really high priority for our generation, and at Wellington Regional Council it's certainly in sharp focus.
Here are two examples of the new approaches which are very much about collaboration across agencies.
Firstly, the Department of Conservation has announced $8.5 million of Jobs for Nature funding to create 92 jobs for environmental restoration in the Waikanae River catchment over a four-year period.
The new funding builds on the Waikanae ki Uta ki Tai (WKUKT) 'mountains to sea' project established in 2019 to restore the river catchment's health.
Both initiatives are a partnership of Waikanae mana whenua Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai (ĀKW), GWRC, KCDC and DoC.
This is a really exciting initiative that gives the Waikanae River catchment a much needed boost to bring to life local restoration and conservation visions, while ensuring community engagement that supports opportunities for personal and career growth.
The new Jobs for Nature funding will give a four-year boost to the awa's restoration, and is specifically focused on restoration through riparian fencing and planting; animal and plant pest control; sustainable land management — good land use and land management practice; and community engagement, education, and capacity building.
There will also be integrated provision of engagement, involvement, training, employment.
This ensures that iwi and other people can enter the programme at different levels; see if the mahi suits them; and build their involvement, skills, and employment options over time.
A second example is that GWRC is exploring innovating ways to transform and humanise freshwater data to drive positive change, through the CreativeHQ's NZ GovTech Accelerator programme.
Greater Wellington experts are nearing the end of the three-month programme that works with eight local and central government agencies to problem solve complex issues in low-risk, innovative ways.
This accelerator programme is an excellent chance to examine challenges within freshwater data and identify the opportunities, so we can collectively drive positive freshwater outcomes.
At the heart of the Greater Wellington project team's problem is, how might we better share information with communities in a way which is meaningful to them, and allows them to understand, engage with, and take care of water in their community.
As explained by GWRC's environment technical support officer and project member, Ainslee Brown, the solution lies in humanising the data so it can become meaningful, relatable and actionable.
"Our focus is to help communities, businesses and government to access freshwater data to support and drive positive freshwater outcomes.
"But our current challenge lies in the fact that fresh water data is stored in a fragmented way.
"There's lots of it — but there is no collective, centralised responsibility for the management and accessibility of this data."
Currently, the team's vision is to create an online platform that uses storytelling and data visualisation to present freshwater data, enables community contribution and is transparent about priorities and pathways to improve freshwater outcomes.