The Awatotara Project is about a stream – a little urban stream that’s been modified and overlooked over the years, but has quietly carried on doing what it does – carrying water from the golf course precinct of Masteron, into the Waipoua River.
But it’s also about the people – the community of Oxford Street and Mahunga Drive who have found a reason to connect with each other and create a sense of place and purpose, based around the Mangawhero Stream.
It’s both the place and the people which make the project what it is.
“Our group is very community based,” says the group’s coordinator Nadia McRae. “While it’s about restoring the environment around the Mangawhero Stream, it’s also about restoring that sense of our neighbourhood as a community. We aim to gather frequently, plant together, plan together, and grow our knowledge about this place and each other.”
As a young mum with a busy preschooler, Nadia has welcomed the chance to get to know a wide range of people from her area through her role. “It was scary at first to be in this coordinator role because there are people in the group with way more experience than me. And I was supposed to be telling them what to do! But everyone is so supportive and told me to just get on with getting them organised.”
And while she may not have the years of conservation experience that others in her group have, Nadia’s well-equipped for the role of coordinator for this urban community catchment group. Last year, she completed the UCOL New Zealand Certificate in Conservation (Operations) Level 4 at Pūkaha – a mixture of classroom study and action in the field. The co-ordinator role is also a mixture – partly organising people and logistics, and partly doing the mahi in the field when there’s mahi to be done, sometimes with her small daughter learning and exploring alongside.
Since forming in 2020, the group has held a number of site preparation and planting days, explored what’s living in the stream, shared kai together and made connections with Mountains to Sea as well as the local Tribe Church who are both neighbours and participants. More recently, the group has turned its attention to Neighbours Month which is held nationwide each March.
“We had a big meeting the other day and started getting a whole lot of ideas from the community. The area used to be a pa site so we’re thinking of doing a whakapapa board. A plant swap is another idea. We also have a green space that the council has said we can use, so we’re thinking of making it into a kids area with natural resources for them to use. People have a whole lot of plans and ideas, and we want to check out everybody’s vision for Mahunga.”
So while the little Mangawhero stream carries on quietly doing what it does, so do the people of the Awatotara project carry on doing what they do so well – connecting their community through conservation.
Ali Mackisack for WaiP2K