Restoring Aotearoa’s waterways to enhance biodiversity and well-being | Sustainable Coastlines

Charity Sustainable Coastlines’ annual ANZ Love Your Water Tour, is a series of native tree planting events across Aotearoa, which sees Sustainable Coastlines working with community members to restore their local awa. This year the mahi will have a strong holistic approach, focusing on the entire ecosystem of the river, protecting biodiversity and the species that live there and enhancing the well-being of the communities that surround it.

This broader ecosystem approach is in response to our modern lifestyle that has seen us become increasingly disconnected from nature and from each other, which is leading to alarming rates of biodiversity loss and having a negative impact on our mental health.

Biodiversity loss is falling more steeply in freshwater ecosystems than in other ecosystems, which is starkly obvious in Aotearoa where 76% of our native freshwater fish are classified as threatened or at risk of extinction. This scale of loss and the constant narrative about the declining state of the environment is leading to ‘eco-anxiety’, as people worry about the fate of our planet and future generations.

But Sustainable Coastlines believes there is hope, by partnering with and supporting local communities to care for their local ecosystem and each other. This not only tackles the problem itself, but also helps to alleviate the sense of futility people can feel in the face of these issues.

Anxiety NZ, a charity who provides treatment and support to people with anxiety, suggests building personal and community resilience, cultivating active hope and joining groups of like-minded people can help with ‘eco-anxiety’. Volunteering with an environmental group, such as Sustainable Coastlines and their freshwater restoration programme, is a great way of doing all three of these things.

The catchments the charity is focusing on are the Whau River and Puhinui Stream in Auckland; Waihou-Piako catchments in the Waikato; Porirua Stream in Wellington; and the Waimakariri in Canterbury.

“Our work is so much more than planting trees,” says Camden Howitt, co-founder and programmes director at Sustainable Coastlines.

“Communities of people, birds, insects and fish call freshwater catchments home, and they all rely on each other to thrive. So by working to restore these freshwater ecosystems we provide locals with opportunities to connect with their community.”

“As people connect with nature and each other it helps alleviate stress, it gives them purpose and something positive to be part of. At our events we see first hand how volunteering and working with others provides a sense of connection, and increases optimism and hope. We call it the ‘high-five effect’.”

Sustainable Coastlines’ Love Your Water programme prioritises activities within the community that go beyond tree planting, such as sourcing native eco-sourced stems from local nurseries, water-quality education with schools in the area, community riparian planting days where locals can volunteer to restore their own awa, weeding and releasing activities and citizen science water monitoring. These activities are designed to connect people to nature and each other, while driving better outcomes for biodiversity, communities and our own well-being.

“We’re proud to support Sustainable Coastlines’ mahi in restoring waterways throughout Aotearoa”, says Antonia Watson, ANZ New Zealand CEO.

“This partnership allows us to contribute to environmental sustainability in our communities and it’s a great way for our people to get outside and connect with te taiao (the natural environment) and each other.”

Sustainable Coastlines seeks to get as many people as possible involved in this positive solution both for their own health and the health of our waterways and native species.

“You can join the movement by volunteering at one of our tree planting events or by contacting us directly to learn more about water quality monitoring opportunities”, adds Howitt.

“We invite all school groups, communities groups, corporates and individuals to get in touch with us, to find out how they can support this mahi in their region”.

Register now for an event at