Protecting the Whenua

During the past nine months, thousands of people from all around New Zealand have answered the call to come to Ihumātao, to join local mana whenua and Save Our Unique Landscape as they stand together to protect this beautiful and significant piece of land from a housing development. 

The massive influx of people into the Ihumatao community was heart-warming, but also challenging.  With the suddenness of the eviction of kaitiaki from the site, and the subsequent mass occupation of the area, lots of things had to be put in place in a hurry- like traffic management plans, health and safety plans, toilets, cooking and washing facilities.  Talking Rubbish were happy to support SOUL and Makaurau Marae in getting some waste systems up and running at the occupation site.

We called on the services of local waste company We Compost, who were able to quickly supply the site with a range of wheelie bins and small skip bins, so waste could be sorted and separated into compostable, recyclable and landfill streams.  Various waste champions from around the country pitched in and gave their time, re-sorting the often mixed-up waste from the wheelie bins into skip bins, which were emptied daily by We Compost.

After the first couple of weeks, it was apparent that leaving people to separate their own waste wasn’t working very well and that a more co-ordinated approach was needed to relieve the stress from the small handful of champions, (special mention going to Janine Nillesen from SOUL, who spent several hours a day sorting rubbish in those early weeks).

Drawing on our relationships with other groups involved in waste education and support around Auckland (Parakore ki Tamaki and Pacific Vision Aotearoa), as well as the Para Patrol rangatahi from Makaurau Marae, we managed to put together a roster of people for a two week trial, to ensure that the Para stations were reset, bins emptied and replaced and the rubbish beautifully sorted, ready for We Compost to pick up each day.

Together, we created some new signage so para stations were more visible and easier for people to use correctly.  And we started a social media campaign encouraging people to take their rubbish home, bring reusable dishes, cutlery and cups (it was great to see The Village Café promoting this at their coffee truck!), or, as a last resort, to sort their own rubbish at the para stations.  “Real Protectors sort their own Para!”, penned one of the rangatahi on the para station signs.

All of these measures paid off and a marked improvement in the volume and separation of rubbish was noted.  During our regular visits to the site over this period, we were able to engage, inspire and educate some of the longer-term occupiers to take on the responsibility of managing the occupation waste, so our hands-on support was able to be gradually phased out.

Our support to reduce waste at Ihumatao was a great way for us to awhi the work of our local iwi and SOUL, and to contribute to a collective vision for how we can all live in harmony with our beautiful whenua.