Opening Night of the 10 Year Celebration Exhibition at Westfield WestCity

Derek March, PTS Co-ordinator for Oratia stream, made a welcoming speech:

Hi everyone, it is great that we can have this opportunity to come together and celebrate 10 years of PTS. We coordinators wanted this celebration to be about you the community volunteers who really are the back bone of the project.  These ten years have seen many changes in professional staff over the years, there is a board over there where you can find all the faces old and new.

During these ten years we have also seen a number of community groups and individual volunteers come and go as their circumstances have changed.  A number of you though, have been here for the whole journey. During my time in my job I have been aware of volunteers who were committed to the overall Henderson catchment concept of PTS. These people might attend a community planting day on the Opanuku stream one month for instance, and next month attend a planting day on Henderson creek. Other people have been solely committed to an adopted area on a particular stream. Some of you have come along to working bees as individuals, while others have come as part of a group. Some of you have been motivators of others and some of you have been responders to motivation. Some of you attend weekly while others of you are much less regular.

 Whichever way your commitment fits into the ten years, on behalf of the community coordinators and their respective community organisations I would like to say a huge thank you to your and your associates for your support of this work. Every individual who has supported us has helped to shape the marvellous corridors we see developing before our eyes.

 Within bounds our intention has been to work with nature, and we are at that magic place where we see her working spontaneously within the stage we have set.

I am always blown away by the amount of work that can be achieved by a group of people pulling together to accomplish a task. Sadly there are not enough models like this functioning out there in this age of individualism and citizens with a dependency on centralized authority.

Along with the Project Twin Streams environmental focus of working for the improvement of storm water quality and mitigation of the effects of human development to promote healthy streams, the purpose has been to develop strong communities.

The fact that we are here tonight celebrating with you our community is testament to the commitment originally made by Waitakere City and continued by Auckland City to develop meaningful partnerships with our respective community organisations who undertake community engagement with you our volunteers.

Wikipedia describes the action of  Volunteering as generally being considered an altruistic activity intended to promote good or improve human quality of life.  It goes on to say the action of volunteering can produce in the volunteer feelings of self-worth and respect. It states there is no financial gain involved and you know that well enough. It goes on to state that Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun and is also intended to make contacts for possible employment.

Whilst altruism is a traditional virtue in many cultures and a core aspect of various religious traditions it is often seen in our more self centred culture as a bit out of step.

Whatever your motivation is for volunteering, whether it be environmental or social we hope that you have been rewarded in many unexpected ways in return for your generous gifting of your time.

We have had lots of fun over the years, and our community planting days have been really special events with music, games, education and of course food.

Our creative art coordinators have helped people come to a more intuitive spiritual connection with our streams. Many of the resulting art pieces are now meaningful signs and markers on the cycleways and in schools and other public places. Many of these are pictured on the creative engagement boards in the exhibition.  – check out the ephemeral stream folk over here to my right and upstairs which have been made recently by various of our groups using materials gathered from the natural environment. They capture the spirit of you people working in harmony with nature.

Out of the Project Twin Streams relationship with local communities has grown the number of community initiatives such as Community gardens and orchards a Pa Harakeke, native plant nurseries the maori medicinal garden Maara Oranga. Check out the ‘associated projects’ display. These facilities provide a number of functions including education and cultural harvest.

 Whilst the majority of the planting is completed on the project areas originally planned. There are still levels of partnership and cooperation to be explored as the habitat we have had a hand in initiating plunges its roots deeper and lifts its branches ever higher. In the urban setting there will be continuing invasions of plants from gardens etc and introduced animals will threaten in various ways. There are many tributaries in the catchment still requiring restoration. We know that council and community continuing to work together can bring about the best protection of our stream edge biodiversity.

 People you speak to do genuinely appreciate and value the restoration work that our volunteers in association with the environmental contractors have done so far. For many of these folk the closest they have got to being part of the PTS experience has been walking or cycling along the cycleways. They see the plantings growing and can see the fruit of our work, but for you who have put on the gloves and planted and weeded there is another level of appreciation and sense of ownership.

Spending time around the stream you learn a lot about the ecosystems operating there.  I love sharing the knowledge I have gained and the experiences I have had with other people, maybe even opening their eyes to understand the natural world a bit more. This has been a two way process for me and I know I have learnt a lot from our volunteers as well.

Every season has its own learning; Spring with the wind blown call of Pipiwharauroa the Shining Cuckoo, just returned from the North Western Pacific.  Humid summer air carries the cicada songs while the trees are full of bird food fruit.  Autumn rain and lower air pressure signals to the eels it is migration time. Along with the increase of insights into these things, greater grows ones sense of mystery and fascination with the webs of interconnection in and around the streams from the western hills down to the sea into which they flow.

Not everyone has bought into these stories yet, and there are a number of disconnected citizens who do not see our streams as living entities to be nurtured. We still fish shopping trollies and tyres and all sorts of trash of civilization out of their waters and off their banks.

We treasure our relationships with all of our partners in our communities, and we love providing educational opportunities to young and old.

We hope you will enjoy the exhibition, we wanted it to be an expression of what we think the spirit of the project is about – you people. On behalf of the community coordinators I would like to thank Anna Fomison who has done a great and difficult job of coordinating and curating the show and this event.

Thanks also to the Auckland Council for their financial support and also to West City Mall for hosting us here. The mall have also provided children’s colouring activities leading up to tonight.

Thanks again, and congratulations on an amazing job.

I think you should give yourselves a great big clap.