More than 100 zero waste heroes celebrated at awards

Publish Date : 30 Jul 2021
Rangatahi Leadership award winner Faiesea Ah Chee


From food to fabric, construction waste to the circular economy, the amazing stories of those working to reduce waste to landfill across Tāmaki Makaurau have been recognised at the 2021 Zero Waste Awards.

One hundred and fourteen individuals, groups, schools, marae, local businesses and social enterprises were nominated for this year’s awards, recognising those doing great things to help Auckland achieve its vision of zero waste by 2040.

“It’s a massive privilege to be part of this event and to celebrate the people and organisations who are finding creative ways to reduce waste in their local communities. Tāmaki Makaurau is better off for all their efforts and advocacy. We can only face this challenge together,” says Auckland Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee Chair, Councillor Richard Hills.

Judges Charmaine Bailie (Uru Whakaaro, Para Kore ki Tāmaki), Damon Birchfield (EcoMatters), Kristy Lorson (EarthSavvy) and Parul Sood (Auckland Council Waste Solutions General Manager) selected winners, as well as highly commending several other entries in each of the five categories.

  • Rangatahi Leadership – Rangatahi, rangawhenua, rangatangata. The winner is Faiesea Ah Chee, who was President of the Kelston Girls High School Environmental Committee during 2020. She led waste minimisation activities, including a waste audit, which provided compelling evidence to the school's Board of Trustees to set up recycling stations. She is vocal in her support for climate action and regularly returns to her old high school to inspire this year’s committee members.
  • Growing the Movement – Whakakanohi i te kaupapa para kore. The winner is Joseph Youssef, founder, Chief Encourager and trustee of All Heart NZ Charitable Trust. All Heart NZ partners with corporates to practically redirect and repurpose redundant and unwanted items. In helping build up All Heart NZ, Joe has become an advocate for zero waste, encouraging businesses to set up more sustainable procurement processes.
  • Community Collaboration – Hā ora, Hāpori. The winner is the Perfectly Imperfect Charitable Trust, founded by Wendy Zhou in 2020. Powered by the belief that ‘ugly is the new tasty’, it tackles the issue of pre-harvest food loss by gleaning produce that would otherwise go to waste and redistributing it to those in need.
  • Cultural Connection – Whīria te ahurea, whīria te kaitīakitanga. The winner is Victoria Azaro for her work in setting up the Travelling Sewing Box Project. It fosters belonging and helps migrants sustain their traditions, as well as using fabric that would otherwise go to waste. A recent project saw a group of refugee women from Iraq create a series of upcycled fabric books, into which they stitched their migration stories.
  • Innovation – Anga whakamua. The joint winners are the Link Alliance, the lead contractor delivering the City Rail Link, and TROW Group, a business specialising in deconstruction and soft strip of buildings. By working together, more than 58 tonnes of usable materials were salvaged from buildings needing to be demolished or relocated for the City Rail Link construction project.

During the evening, special posthumous recognition was paid to Richelle Kahui-McConnell, the founder of Para Kore ki Tāmaki, who passed away in October 2020.

Her whānau received an award called Ko te rongoā kei roto i ō tātua ringa (Already in our hands are the remedies), a quote from John Te Rangi-Āniwaniwa Rangihau to commemorate Richelle’s contribution to Auckland’s zero waste community.

Richelle was instrumental in helping Auckland Council to engage with mana whenua and matāwaka to ensure their priorities and te ao Māori were woven through the 2018 Waste Management and Minimisation Plan.

She also contributed to many different organisations to help reduce waste and established Para Kore ki Tāmaki as a leader in working collaboratively with marae and whānau, delivering workshops and providing resources to help Māori communities minimise waste.

“Richelle supported us in every facet of zero waste kaupapa. She was generous, loving, joyful and a true connector of people. I know everyone who met her remembers and values her contribution with fondness and respect,” says Auckland Council Waste Solutions General Manager Parul Sood.

This year’s awards were held on Thursday 29 July in central Auckland. They were organised by EcoMatters Environment Trust in partnership with Auckland Council and in support of Auckland's vision of zero waste by 2040.

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