Community category winners in the 2021 Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards.
Valda Poletti and David Clarkson - for enduring commitment to environmental protection and improvement, and inspiring others to take action
Valda and David are widely known for their internationally significant Te Kainga Marire native garden. They’ve also helped to bring enduring and significant improvements to native biodiversity in the wider New Plymouth urban area. They restored and protected a remnant forest wetland in the Pukatea Dell next to the garden. They also established the Friends of Te Henui and worked with the community and the NPDC to restore forest remnants all along the stream, with weeding, fencing and predator control. Precious species such as waiwaka, or swamp maire, and para, or king fern, are now thriving. And native bird species have returned, including tūī, kererū and even kākā. Valda and David inspire many with their passion and their hands-on approach to conservation.
Keith Holswich - for outstanding contributions to the protection of culturally and environmentally significant sites within the Ngāti Rāhiri rohe
Keith has played a key role in ensuring that details of more than 100 places significant to his Ngāti Rāhiri hapū are accurately logged and recorded to ensure they are not damaged or lost through inappropriate use or development. His work is of immense value to Te Atiawa and to the TRC and other agencies, and will allow his hapū and iwi, and the wider general public to learn more about the rich history of Taranaki land. Thanks to Keith’s efforts, the TRC is making progress in compiling a region-wide list of sites significant to Māori, for use in resource management. This will ensure the cultural, environmental and historical values of these sites are protected for future generations.
Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust - for significant improvements to native biodiversity in the Kaūpokonui Stream
Threatened native fish species including piharau, or lamprey, can move freely up and down Kaūpokonui Stream for the first time in 120 years thanks to Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust. The Trust took the lead in removing a weir at Glenn Rd, securing a resource consent, gaining funding, and liaising closely with councils and other stakeholders including Ngāti Tū Hapū, DOC, Heritage New Zealand, Fish and Game, landowners, and Fonterra. The weir has long been a major impediment, with many native fish species absent from waters upstream of it. The project frees up a significant amount of habitat stretching from near the coast towards the mounga. Species including inanga and panoko, or torrentfish, were detected upstream shortly after its removal in February 2021.
Wildlife.ai Trust - for supporting environmental and educational projects in Taranaki with smart digital tools.
The New Plymouth-based Wildlife.ai Trust is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for use in environmental conservation projects. The Trust develops open-source technology that significantly reduces time and costs for conservation groups, particularly in the collection and analysis of data. An example is smart cameras called Wētā Watchers, deployed on Maunga Taranaki to allow more effective predator control based on real-time information. Another project, Spyfish Aotearoa, uses both citizen science and machine learning to identify fish species in underwater footage recorded in Ngā Motu Marine Protected Area and Tapuae Marine Reserve. Wildllife.ai Trust works collaboratively with a broad range of conservation and education groups in Taranaki, developing tools that bring technology, environment and communities together.