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Published: 2006-03-30 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is helping to bring an innovative theatrical production designed to promote the conservation of Waikato wetlands to local audiences.

Regional councillors today voted to contribute $4900 to Swamp Treasures, a theatrical production created by Waikato University theatre studies lecturer John Davies. The money will come from council’s Environmental Initiatives Fund.

The production will run four times during this year’s FUEL Festival and involve a range of disciplines including theatre, mask-making, choral music and visual art.

“Using performance art to raise awareness about environmental issues without sounding heavy-handed and pedantic is a real challenge,” said Mr Davies.

“I believe the threat to our natural heritage is a threat to the quality of life of our unique society and environment. There are clearly global concerns when considering the broader issues of conservation, yet I am acting here in my own community because this is where I live and where my actions can make a difference.”

A range of groups are involved in the project, including undergraduate students from Waikato University, who will work with masks and puppets to create an impression of how original wetlands might have looked.

In carrying out the project, Mr Davies will be conducting research on the effectiveness of community arts to raise awareness on conservation issues – in particular the conservation of Waikato wetlands.

Waikato University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has granted money towards this research, and Mr Davies will be submitting his findings at international academic theatre studies conferences, and for publication.

Environment Committee Chairman Paula Southgate said Mr Davies’ application was one of the most creative and innovative the Environmental Initiatives Fund had received.

“Swamp Treasures is an unusual blend of environmental entertainment and education promoting an important conservation message,” she said.

“In New Zealand more than 90 per cent of our wetlands have been drained or filled. They perform vital ecosystem services like improving water quality and reducing flood risks, and are home to many threatened plant and animal species.

“We’re really pleased to help bring Swamp Treasures to the stage.”