Love Your Water | Sustainable Coastlines

Love Your Water: a celebration

In March 2023, we announced our goal to see 60% less litter on the coastlines of Aotearoa New Zealand by 2030. It’s an ambitious goal that requires the whole team’s dedicated focus, through stakeholder engagement, leveraging our partnerships, and really getting our solutions-focused Litter Intelligence platform cranking.

This need for a laser focus meant that we made the difficult decision to no longer run Love Your Water, our riparian planting programme. And when we say it was a difficult decision, we’re not kidding. Our planting days were amazing and impactful, and the feedback we received from volunteers and stakeholders over the years told us that they felt the same.

We also love the kaupapa — planting trees to provide habitats for our wildlife, reduce erosion, sequester carbon and improve water quality before it reaches the sea. However, we decided that the impact we can make as a charity by sharpening our focus and going back to our roots is too important an opportunity to pass up.

Love Your Water is a big part of our history at Sustainable Coastlines, so we would like to dedicate some space to celebrating its impact, its story, and the wonderful people involved.

Programme highlights

Love Your Water officially kicked off in 2014, but the seeds of the programme at Sustainable Coastlines began sprouting well before that. As early as 2010, we took our expertise in fundraising, collaboration, and running inspiring outdoor events and delivered tree-planting events along the Te Waihou Walkway in Waikato, as part of the wider Kaimai Catchments Project.

Other Te Ika-a-Māui North Island planting events followed, and in 2014 we made Love Your Water official with a nationwide tour. Our new wintertime programme brought freshwater restoration education, riparian planting days and community engagement activities to every region of Aotearoa.

We continued our long-standing relationship with the Department of Corrections and helped to build a nursery at a Waikato prison in an effort to reduce the costs of tree planting and to assist inmates in achieving horticulture qualifications.

In 2019, dynamic duo Sam Judd (co-founder) and George Beattie led our biggest planting year to date, thanks to the support of Vector and ANZ. The tour saw 70,369 trees planted, testament to our ability to upscale our work by collaborating with communities and funders.

We built meaningful connections with communities, nurseries, and īwi groups, and nurtured relationships in the catchments where we focus our restoration efforts. We helped to unite philanthropic efforts in the Waihou–Piako catchment with funding from The Tindall Foundation, Simplicity Foundation, and Trust Waikato, contributing building blocks for long-term community-led riparian planting.

We wish to thank the countless businesses, funders, councils, and iwi and hapū groups that have made Love Your Water possible. A special thanks to Sustainable Coastlines staff, past and present, who have shared their knowledge and enthusiasm to make the programme happen.

Most of all, we’d like to thank the 17,000-plus volunteers that have dedicated their time and energy to restoring their local awa. Already, we’re seeing positive results for the rivers’ ecology and surrounding wildlife, which will only continue to grow as the seedlings become trees.

What’s next?
The Love Your Water legacy

Our focus on whakawhanaunga, or relationship building, meant that when the time came to refocus our efforts on litter and plastic pollution, we were in a good position to continue many of those relationships in relation to our new strategy. It also meant enabling existing groups to continue restoration efforts at their local awa, including supporting them with contracting arrangements.

We worked with community groups and key stakeholders to ensure ongoing maintenance of the trees we’ve already planted and future development of biodiversity outcomes in the catchments we focused on, and we’re happy to report that we have maintenance plans underway in each one.

These maintenance plans ensure regular hand-releasing of the planted natives, pest weed control, and mulching. This gives the trees the best chance of growing a deep root base and becoming established over the years, growing up to provide habitat for wildlife and filter out the nasties before they reach our rivers.

Case study: from rākau to para

Te Pu-a-nga Maara, a rangatahi-led (youth-led) collective of taiao (environment) innovators, has been a key partner of ours in the Puhinui Catchment. 

We began our relationship on the foundation of knowledge sharing: learning about te ao Māori and aspirations for taiao, sharing water-testing citizen science methodologies and working together on restoration plantings. We deepened our relationship through our shared love for observing tohu (indicators) that show us the health of te taiao.

Our focus shifted from water to litter when we announced our new goal. Te Pu-a-nga Maara saw Litter Intelligence as an opportunity to collect stormwater data on the waste polluting the awa they are dedicated to reviving. 

The collective have a focus on engaging local communities and businesses, and have already collected useful data to support positive behaviour change. Our hope is that we continue to support the advocacy and amazing kaupapa Te Pu-a-nga Maara is leading for te taiao.