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Chris Ballantyne Finds Community Flowing Through An Awa In Need

My family and I made Te Atatū our home twenty years ago. We live on the edge of the awa named Te Wai o Pareira, known to many as Henderson Creek, and that body of water forms a dynamic element of the landscape we are a part of.

My day job is as a director of Second Nature, a West Auckland-based landscape company. My happy place is my home garden and nursery.

I am a life-long environmentalist, that is, I love being in the environment. Through my work as a landscape gardener and amateur nurseryman, I marvel and delight in the complexity of the systems that sustain life.

My involvement with Rivercare Group Te Wai o Pareira has grown my understanding of the awa and its challenges. Most importantly, it has connected me more deeply with my local community. I admit that initially, the scale of the problems faced by the awa depressed me. I thought that I’d sell up and find somewhere that was relatively unpolluted and less intensely populated. At that time, I shared this sentiment with Dion Pou from the Marae Coalition, and he called me out.

‘’Are you going to give up? Isn’t the environment here worth fighting for? Why can’t this place be both a functioning ecosystem and a place of human habitation?’’. This inspired me to stay and get stuck in, trying to make a difference in my ‘hood’.

Back to the systems that sustain life; here’s an important one - community.

I have the privilege of sharing this mahi with many talented, caring, and passionate people: Bram Beels, Jewel Beazley, and Talitha Mentz, who were instrumental in building the foundation of our group; the Rivercare Governance Team (a scientist, resource lawyer, communications advisor, community coordinator and retired builder) who tirelessly volunteer their time for the awa; our paid staff, who go beyond their job descriptions because they believe in our mission; the Marae Coalition for generously bringing a mātauranga Māori perspective to our mahi; the Te Atatū Te Taiao Conservation Coalition including Sustainable Coastlines, Forest & Bird, Birds NZ, Pristine Waterways, and Community Waitākere, for creating a network of support; DTEK, who model ‘rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard and dirty work of physically cleaning up our environment; and the Henderson Massey Local Board, Councillors, Auckland Council staff and local MP’s who have consistently supported our work.

This community and its environment are my daily inspiration.

He aha te mea, nui o te ao?

He tāngata, He tāngata, He tāngata

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is people!


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