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Waitakere Takes World Gold At Environmental Awards

November 16, 2006

Media release (For Immediate Release)

Waitakere Takes World Gold At Environmental Awards

Waitakere is the most “liveable” city in the world according to the United Nations -backed LivCom Awards, announced last night.

The LivCom Awards, held in China, is the world’s only awards competition which focuses on Best Practice in managing the local environment. The objective of LivCom is to improve the quality of life of individual citizens through the creation of ‘liveable communities’.

Waitakere City was last night declared the winner of the “Liveable Community” award and was also silver medallist in Environmentally Sustainable Project Award – for its work on legislation to protect the Waitakere Ranges from further unsustainable development.

“There were five finalists from around the world in the Liveable Communities Award and it is a great honour to not only be the winner but to separately receive a gold medal for the quality of the presentation we made to the judging panel,” says Councillor Penny Hulse who was in the City of Hangzou to front Waitakere’s entry.

“Around 50 countries subscribe to LivCom which is backed by the UN, and many of those countries are represented here. So believe me this is a very big deal, and we are being treated like celebrities. The media interest here has just been incredible,” she says.

Waitakere’s entry was basically an overview of the policies and programmes that the City has to ensure all sectors of the community can participate in the democratic process while harnessing the community’s energy and ideas to deliver results that make for more pleasant, more sustainable and more enjoyable neighbourhoods.

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Waitakere believes that by encouraging the community to become involved in projects such as Project Twin Streams, it gets $10 in value from every $1 invested by the council.

The other aspect explored was the City’s use of art and events as a form of communication that help build a sense of community.

“Migrants in Waitakere come from about 150 different countries – many of them with English as a second language. We have found that one of the quickest ways to build bridges between all those people is to encourage them to share their arts and festivals,” says Councillor Hulse.

The Council also won the silver award in the Environmentally Sustainable Project section.

“In fact, that award is for work in the area of environmental rehabilitation but we successfully argued that we have such programmes going on in the Waitakere Ranges, but none of them will last without protection of the environment itself. We submitted that the Waitakere Ranges Heritage Area Bill now being considered by Parliament provides that protection,” she says.

Mayor Bob Harvey says the awards are a ringing endorsement of the polices and programmes that Waitakere has delivered for over a decade.

“Environmental protection and sustainability is not about tree hugging and eating mung beans. It’s about smart thinking and innovative ways of dealing with the effects of population growth, crime, increasing waste volumes, stormwater, and traffic congestion and so on. It’s about smart planning and involving communities in everything you do.”

“What we’ve been doing for years is not becoming main-stream and this award is recognition of the fact that Waitakere is a world leader in sustainability.”

Mayor Harvey is at an invitation-only presentation today by ex-US vice-president Al Gore. Gore is one of the world’s leading environmentalists and recently released the hard-hitting documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

“That film is a real wake-up call for the planet,” Mayor Harvey says. “Quite simply, unless we all change our behaviour this will be a very, very, grim place to live. But Waitakere has shown that by working together, cities and individuals can make a difference.”


Background Notes

Waitakere has long been regarded as a leader in the field of sustainability. In 1992 it became the “Eco City” and was the first local authority in New Zealand to adopt the principles of the international Agenda 21 movement.
The following is taken from the City’s website (www.waitakere.govt.nz):
Being an eco city means working together for better social, economic and environmental outcomes for our children, our grandchildren and ourselves.
It means working with people and communities to:
- Build a strong local economy
- Create attractive town centres with good road and passenger transport access
- Protect and expand the “green network” which links our streams and parks from the Ranges to the sea
- Use resources better, and produce less waste
- Improve the wellbeing of residents

Since adopting the eco city direction, Waitakere has achieved some significant changes:
- Between 1997 and 2000, there has been an average 3% increase in local jobs each year
- 95% of new homes built in Waitakere City are in the urban area, reducing the pressure to subdivide countryside and the Waitakere Ranges
- The Council plants over 80,000 native trees and plants each year
- There has been a 30% drop since 1998/99 in the amount of rubbish each resident generates - including litter, illegal dumping and inorganic rubbish
- From having some of the worst road safety statistics in NZ, Waitakere now has some of the best, including a halving of child pedestrian and cycle injuries since 1998
- The city has built strong partnerships with the city’s two iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki and Ngati Whatua, and has set up a Taumata Runanga with representatives of key Maori groups in the city as a standing committee of the Council.


For more information go to: www.livcomawards.com

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