From its beginnings over 23 years ago as a neighbourhood environmental action group, Kaipātiki Project in Birkdale on Auckland’s North Shore, is an innovative eco-hub running a thriving native plant nursery and facilitating local native ngahere, stream and estuary regeneration.
Despite the challenges, the impact of Kaipātiki Project’s regenerative environment programmes has amplified over the last 12 months; strengthening their offerings and increasing community engagement and participation in many ways.
Kaipātiki Project has been able to deepen relationships and forge collaboration with existing and new groups/organisations.
A programme was developed to support local Community Houses to realise their aspirations to build volunteer-led food gardens and embed composting into their spaces, through regular training workshops, guidance and advice.
The Kaipātiki Project team has hosted school and community groups at their community compost hubs, one in Birkdale and one in Hobsonville, providing best practice advice and sharing knowledge to enable them to set up their own compost hubs.
Kaipātiki Project has also supported the Auckland City Mission Street Guardians' desire to increase their restoration work with the Project, going from 1-2 visits per month to regular weekly sessions. As well as the Guardians group developing connections to the whenua, their volunteer contributions have accelerated the weeding and mulching work on the ground, helping newly planted natives to thrive in various ngahere sites across Auckland's North Shore.
“Navigating lockdowns and level changes have really shaken us up. Our ideas of how we work, the things we take for granted about being safe and our expectations, have all taken a knock. Your grant has been a backbone for our regenerative environment programmes, so this year we could be strong, be bold, adapt and keep going.”
- Janet Cole, Kaipātiki Project Manager
A whole systems approach
As well as growing the impact of hands-on stewardship in collaboration with others, Kaipātiki Project has been just as purposeful in nurturing, growing and developing their practices as a team and as a body of volunteers. This has been part of their emphasis towards a 'whole systems approach’ which is more embracing of te ao Māori.
The team at Kaipātiki Project, led since 2015 by Janet Cole, is on a journey to build their capability and practice of Te Reo Māori and tikanga, and applying Te Tiriti o Waitangi in their work. This has been critical to engaging and developing a relationship with Mana Whenua, and to supporting the creation of greater space for Māori voices and leadership in the organisation and its mahi.
Staff have also strengthened their knowledge of Rongoā Māori and Maramataka by attending workshops and training to develop these practices in their work – this has included the introduction of a Maramataka wheel (calendar) to help guide their work locally.
“We try to focus on practices that help connect people to the land and each other when they visit, volunteer or join workshops in the garden; we have created a welcome area where we commence our work with karakia, a gathering circle in the bush, and we encourage the exchange of cultural knowledge and practices from all ethnicities."
- Joanne Kyriazopoulos, Grants & Impact Specialist
Volunteers are the beating heart
With over 8,000 volunteer hours contributed to reserve regeneration, plant nursery propagation and teaching garden care in the last year, volunteers are the lifeblood of the eco-hub - and looked after as such. There is a formalised volunteer induction, and intentional pathways set up to help to expand volunteers’ experience across the hub’s programmes and activities.
"Volunteering here has become my main job! Working with plants you get a sense of serenity and achievement, especially if you are feeling a bit low or disconnected – it makes your self-esteem go up."
- Workshop participant