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Marae show the waste to goMarae image

An innovative waste reduction programme involving marae throughout the Waikato region is reaping benefits for the environment and bringing communities together. The ‘Para Kore’ (Zero Waste) programme has been operating since 2009 and since then the three original marae involved have been joined by 32 others, all focused on cutting the waste they produce each year by up to 80 per cent. Other marae around New Zealand are now also taking part.

While the amount of waste ending up in landfills in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions hasn’t changed much between 2006 and 2012, it’s still a significant amount. An estimated 226,887 tonnes is dumped into landfills in the Waikato region each year and this continues to increase. If we are to address this issue, we not only need to reduce our consumption, we also need to use our resources more efficiently, particularly when it comes to reusable and recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, organic waste, glass and metal. Pollution from waste in our environment also affects people’s health and the places where plants and animals live. Waste in our natural environment results in affected areas losing some or all of their natural character and recreational value.

Prior to the Para Kore programme getting underway, it was identified that marae throughout the region were feeding more than 200,000 manuwhiri (visitors) each year, with large amounts of waste from these activities generally ending up in regional landfills. However, reducing waste and increasing recycling needs to be made easier for people so they can factor it into their busy lives. That’s why Xtreme Zero Waste in Raglan, with support from Waikato Regional Council, established the ‘Para Kore’ pilot project five years ago to work together with marae to turn this situation around.

Para Kore provides a mentoring and waste minimisation education programme which supports marae to set up recycling and composting systems. The programme involves presentations, waste audits, wananga (workshops) and ongoing support. Crates, wheelie bins and signage are also provided to ensure the systems are easy to use. Marae interested in composting are shown techniques such as bokashi, worm farming and hot composting. Marae are also supported to develop zero waste policies, hireage and purchasing policies to reduce the amount of rubbish brought onto the marae.

Initially, the project involved three marae interested in doing things differently: Poihākena in Raglan, Tūrangawaewae in Ngāruawāhia and Kirikiriroa in Hamilton. Later, Para Kore Marae Incorporated was established, with the three original marae being joined by 32 more taking up the challenge. Marae involved come from the tribal regions of Waikato, Hauraki, Raukawa and Maniapoto. The impressive progress made by everyone involved so far indicates that Para Kore is well on track towards its goal of having all marae in the Waikato region, and in New Zealand, working towards achieving zero waste by 2020.

Read other stories from people living in our region.