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Award for iwi-led Tolaga project

AN East Coast iwi-led environmental project has been granted $25,000 in recognition of the contribution the Tolaga Bay community’s Uawanui Project makes to innovation in conservation.

The $25,000 grant is one of three Conservation Innovation Awards presented to New Zealand organisations.

Based on the principle a healthy environment means healthy people, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and the Uawa-Tolaga Bay community’s Uawanui Project aims to integrate management of the region’s catchment and coastline with economic, social and cultural development and education.

Projects include the Kaitawa estuary, planting work at Tolaga Bay Area School and development of a riverbank restoration guide.

Future projects include addressing slash from forestry, the restoration of the pipi beds and flora and fauna, and reintroduction of bird species such as weka and dotterels.

At the launch of the project in 2014, Uawanui governance group member Victor Walker said the project would continue through generations to come.

“The ultimate goal is to get the environment back to the point that it was at October 5, 1769 — one day before Cook arrived here.

“We want the next generations to enjoy the bounty of our coast like our forefathers, launching into the future by reclaiming the prosperity of our past.”

Native lizard monitoring systemWellington-based EcoGecko Consultants were also granted $25,000 for their submission of a new-generation native lizard monitoring system which was designed to replace 1960s “bucket” traps.

The innovators behind a protein-based bait known as Vespex Wasp Bait that wasps carry back to their own nests were also awarded $25,000. Invasive wasps cause around $60 million worth of damage to the New Zealand environment every year, and are responsible for stealing food from native species and killing newly hatched birds.

The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Michele Frank, who oversees community conservation projects for WWF nationwide, says the awards are a collaboration between people who share a passion for improving the natural environment.

“By harnessing creativity like this we can bring better tools to the community volunteer army and better protect our wildlife, sooner.”

The three winners were congratulated by TV3 presenter Samantha Hayes and “the Bugman” Ruud Kleinpaste at an event in Wellington last last night to mark Conservation Week.

The Conservation Innovation Awards are a WWF initiative which seek to unearth new ideas to boost conservation action in New Zealand.

Awards finalists were judged by an independent panel comprising Matthew Monahan, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and co-founder of Kiwi Connect, Devon McLean director of Project Janszoon, Justine Daw, general manager of partnerships at Landcare Research, and Shane Inder, programme leader of industrial design at AUT.