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Published: 2015-06-05 00:00:00

Two significant environmental projects involving Waikato Regional Council last night won categories at the national Green Ribbon Awards at Parliament.

Ghassan Basheer, the principal technical advisor for the multi-agency Tui Mine Remediation Project at Te Aroha, accepted the “public sector leadership” category award.

Water scientist Dr Bruno David received the award in the “caring for our water” category for the CarpN Neutral Project which has seen pest koi carp caught in a trap and turned into useful products such as plant fertiliser.

The council’s sustainable procurement project, headed by sustainable business advisor Anna D’Arcy, was also a finalist in the public sector leadership category.

The council’s chairperson Paula Southgate – who attended the event along with deputy chair Tipa Mahuta and CEO Vaughan Payne – said the council was very pleased to be recognised for public sector leadership and innovation.

“The benefits of these projects are huge. We have cleaned up one of New Zealand’s dirtiest sites and are well on the way to managing one of New Zealand’s pest problems, the koi carp. The water quality and ecology are both winners.

“We have top quality staff who work hard to find innovative solutions to difficult issues. And, what is more, this shows how working in partnership with Government and local communities works well for our regional community.”

The Green Ribbon Awards are presented by the Minister for the Environment and Minister of Conservation to recognise outstanding contributions to protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s environment. They are open to all individuals and organisations in New Zealand who are making a difference for the environment.

The old Tui Mine site at Mount Te Aroha had been dubbed New Zealand’s most contaminated site by media and was a top government priority for remediation. All up, the project, the first of its kind in New Zealand, took about 160,000 hours of planning, management, engineering, and construction time to successfully remediate the site. As a direct result, the major risks to human health and safety posed by the mine have dramatically and permanently reduced and the environment can finally start to heal. Mr Basheer was responsible for ensuring that the objectives and stakeholder expectations for this project were met.

The two phases of the Tui Mine remediation cost a combined total of $21.7 million. Of that, funding of $20.7 million was provided by the Ministry for the Environment, $800,000 came from Waikato Regional Council and $200,000 from Matamata-Piako District Council. All agencies also contributed financially to the success of the project through the provision of in-house resourcing and expertise (valued at $3 million).

“This was a truly collaborative effort between Waikato Regional Council, the Ministry for the Environment, Matamata-Piako District Council, the Department of Conservation, iwi and the local Te Aroha community,” said Ms Southgate.

Meanwhile, the CarpN Neutral project has mainly targeted koi carp which contribute to declining water quality in the region.

“CarpN Neutral involved building a trap at Lake Waikare to remove the pest fish and turn them into products that tackle other environmental issues, such as fertiliser and animal pest baits. It was a really innovative project,” said Ms Southgate.

The majority of the CarpN Neutral project has been funded by Waikato Regional Council, with some funding provided early in the project by the Waikato River Authority and Genesis Energy.

The other council finalist, the sustainable procurement project, has seen the council introduce policies which favour suppliers using environmentally sustainable practices.

Examples of its success include:

  • Council caterers now give away all surplus food or send it to the compost bin
  • Cleaners all use environmentally friendly products
  • An engineering contractor has shifted to ensuring all solutions they recommend take into account fully the lifecycle of the designs they recommend and their environmental friendliness

“We’ve also introduced a range of businesses to the EcoSmart programme – on average they’ve saved $25,000 in the first year on fuel, waste and energy spending,” said Ms Southgate.