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Upper Clutha Lakes Trust has launched a new brand called “Wai Wanaka” with a renewed focus on getting the community involved in protecting alpine waterways.

Wai Wanaka trustee, Guardian of Lake Wanaka and long-term advocate for safeguarding the Upper Clutha waterways Dr Don Robertson said the change comes with a clear message.

“Too much is taken for granted when it comes to the health of our waterways and too little is known, particularly when it comes to the functioning of our deep, cold alpine lakes.”

Dr Robertson is just one of many passionate members of the newly named Wai Wanaka organisation.

Formed in 2018 from the amalgamation of two local water groups, the organisation aims to activate local water users and promote community understanding of the full impacts of human activity in and around the broader Upper Clutha catchment.

Wai, the Maori word for water, also stands for water action initiative, signalling their directive as an organisation which identifies initiatives and creates momentum for action.

Already Wai has secured much needed space and funding for the Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre (ALREC) to enable research and education activities.

Fellow Wai trustee Mandy Bell has spent the past 18 months working on freshwater issues at a national level, as part of the Government’s Freshwater Leaders Group.

This work has reinforced the importance of supporting community efforts to get ahead of freshwater issues and move at pace.

Wai is working collaboratively with a diverse range of government, business and community stakeholders and recently completed a locally focused community catchment plan highlighting key opportunities to safeguard the long-term health of our waterways.

Wai representatives want the community to look beyond the natural beauty of the local waterways, understand the risks they face and get involved with projects.

The group’s plans include strengthening existing partnerships with a range of environmentally focused organisations to ensure alignment of activities, supporting funded research and citizen science, creating education opportunities about the risks to water quality and bringing together local landowners and businesses to turn great ideas into action.

Working with the community Wai can improve outcomes for the freshwater that flows from the tops of mountains into our rivers and lakes and out to sea.

STAFF REPORTERS