The inaugural Environment Forum for Ōrākei Local Board was held earlier this month and has set the standard for an annual event going forward.
“Ōrākei Local Board has never done anything like this” explains Margaret Voyce, Local Board member and Environment Portfolio Lead.
“Our communities are just so actively engaged in the protection and improvement of the surrounding environment that it was an obvious call-to-action to hold an event which bought everyone together.”
Up to 100 individuals and community group representatives attended the afternoon forum at Remuera Golf Club on 1 November, where they were treated to afternoon tea and a mix of presentations, expo style displays and networking opportunities.
“Many of the groups who attended the forum do quite similar work and so it was great to see them all in one room sharing ideas. I am told that indeed there have been new working relationships formed which means that the outcome for increased synergy is already being achieved,” explained Voyce.
The Ōrākei Local Board area has a significant amount of reserves, greenways, parks, waterways including inlets and mangroves, as well as large swathes of nature bush such as Pourewa Valley which is one of the boards main focuses for the next ten years.
“Pourewa Valley is a major priority for the local board, it is set to become one of the largest and best-loved urban forests in the country,” explains Scott Milne, Chair of Ōrākei Local Board.
“Pourewa Valley is such a large area that the continued work of those multiple environment groups and individuals needs to continue."
"We can’t do this without our community volunteers, hence why it was so important to get them informed and involved at this early stage through our presentation at the forum.”
Among the highlights for many was the recognition awarded to John La Roche, a local volunteer who has been working on various environmental projects for well over 30 years. With his vision that helped set up the Eastern Bays Songbird Project, he is an inspiration to all. La Roche was presented an Ōrākei Local Board Environmental Award for Service and Innovation to a well deserved, standing ovation.
Ōrākei Ward Councillor Desley Simpson said of the event, “I want to thank Ōrākei Local Board for this outstanding initiative highlighting the tireless work of our volunteers. It’s important we acknowledge the various groups and individuals who collectively make a very formidable team improving the natural environment within our area.
"The afternoon was also a great opportunity for me to provide reassurance that tangible regional ratepayer investment is being made to protect and enhance numerous parks and reserves across Ōrākei”
“We couldn’t have asked for a better inauguration, the feedback has been in tremendous support of future forums, and appreciation of the opportunity to learn, share and connect with other like-minded local environmentalists,” says Voyce. “We look forward to the Ōrākei Local Board Environmental Forum 2021 with a theme close to all of our minds and environmental work: water.”
"I came away thinking how lucky we are to live in Orakei and how magic it is to have so many parks and truly 'special areas' available to us; it's wonderful to know that people are taking care of these reserves and to learn there are exciting plans for their future," says David H Everard, Deputy Chair of Orakei Community Assoc Inc.