CBEC EcoSolutions, winners of the Te Tohu Matua – Supreme Award, at Friday night’s ceremony for Northland Regional Council’s Environmental Awards in Whangārei, with Conservation Minister and Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime (far right), who presented the award. Photo / Dawn Dutton Photography
It started as a way of helping one street sort out its compostable waste – now, CBEC EcoSolutions’ Community Compost Connection Programme has been named the winner of the Te Tohu Matua – Supreme Award at this year’s Northland Regional Council (NRC) Whakamānawa ā Taiao – Environmental Awards.
The win was one of a number for Far North groups or individuals at the awards ceremony on Friday night, with Top Energy winning two awards – in the environmental action to address climate change and environmental action in industry categories – for Ngāwhā Generation Ltd’s Zero Carbon Electricity for the Far North project.
Along with this, the environmental action in education category was won by Kerikeri Kindergarten; the environmental action in water quality improvement category was taken out by Nga Tangariki o Ngāti Hine for its Te Papa Pa Orooro project; environmental leadership went to Jaycee Tipene-Thomas; and the Kaitiakitanga award went to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Rēhia Trust.
CBEC EcoSolutions runs its Community Composting initiative from Kaitāia, the Bay of Islands and Whangārei, but it was started in the Far North, CBEC’s Whangārei manager Jo Shanks said.
Shanks said it started small, with Far North’s The Good Life Project wanting to sort out composting solutions for one small community. CBEC applied for funding from the Ministry for the Environment and the Community Compost Connection Programme was born. It now has 15 community composting hubs across Northland – having diverted tonnes of waste from the dump – and is looking to expand even further.
“It’s pretty cool that what started out as looking for a composting solution for one street has ended up benefiting the whole of Northland and making a difference for our environment,” Shanks said.
She said the award win was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the composting team and the volunteers who put in many hours to help teach individuals and communities how to make the best use of their compost.
Community compost hubs are a place for local composting solutions in communities across Te Tai Tokerau. They are installed by EcoSolutions in partnership with local organisations that manage the hubs and Carbon Cycle, which provides the compost system.
The hubs can serve as local learning spaces for schools, groups and individuals while contributing to local community gardens, increasing food production and food resilience while reducing the amount of organic matter that goes to landfill. Composting also helps retain topsoil and moisture retention.
Shanks said many people wanted to get involved in helping the environment to help guard against climate change, but may feel there was little they could do. However, composting was a simple way of diverting up to half of all household waste from the tip and putting it back into the soil, which was good for the environment.
For more information on the programme, go to www.ecosolutions.org.nz.
Ngāwhā Generation Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Top Energy) general manager Ray Robinson said the awards for environmental action in industry and environmental action to address climate change were recognition of NGL’s commitment to contributing to a low-carbon future for Northland.
At the heart of the company’s efforts are the locally owned Ngāwhā Geothermal Power Station and an innovative team committed to reducing carbon emissions and protecting Northland’s environment.
Robinson said the power station at Ngāwhā has been a 25-year strategic initiative to utilise naturally occurring geothermal resources and improve economic prosperity for people in the Far North.
Station Three (OEC3), commissioned on December 31, 2020, made the Far North a net exporter of electricity, providing energy independence (and flow-on benefits) to the local community, he said.
The new station generates 32 megawatts of power, considerably more than the 25MW generated by the two existing power stations combined. The total output supplies the Far North’s electricity demand for 95 per cent of the year, with excess power exported to the rest of Northland through the national grid.
As well as the Supreme Award, CBEC EcoSolutions won the environmental action in the community category when the winners were announced at the awards ceremony at Whangārei’s McKay Stadium Lounge on Friday night.
NRC chairwoman Tui Shortland said the awards are the council’s way of recognising and celebrating the people and organisations making a difference for Northland’s environment.
“The awards are designed to recognise and celebrate kaitiakitanga in action and highlight the commitment and remarkable contributions so many people from all walks of life are making to help protect and enhance the region’s environment,” Shortland said.
In their comments on the winner of the Supreme Award, the judges said: “CBEC EcoSolutions have demonstrated a strong ongoing commitment to reducing waste in Northland through their Community Compost Connection Programme. They are producing on-the-ground solutions that engage communities and should be celebrated.”
The organisation goes beyond waste management by supporting local communities and businesses, creating jobs and providing education training.
“Their dedication and the outcomes they have achieved are making a real difference for our people, environment and economy,” the judges said.
Shortland said it’s positive to see so many of the winners are taking steps to address climate change, including Ngāwhā Generation Ltd’s Zero Carbon Electricity for the Far North project, which took out the environmental action to address climate change and environmental action in industry categories – both of which had not been awarded since 2021.
“It’s great to see an innovative and leading project happening in the Mid North that’s making a significant difference, having already removed 35,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere during trials. As an industry leader, they are committed to sustainable energy generation, developing their own technology and innovation that can be replicated around the world.”
Other winners on the night were:
Environmental action to protect native life – Aki Tai Here
Youth environmental leader – Noah Edwards
Kiwi Coast outstanding group or project – Tutukaka Landcare Coalition
Also recognised at the awards were Mike Camm of the Tutukaka Landcare Coalition and Greg Innes of Bream Head Conservation Trust, who both received special awards for their outstanding contribution to te taiao. The duo were recognised for their decades of leadership, their commitment to restoring and protecting native biodiversity and inspiring others to get involved too.
Category winners each receive a prize package containing $1000 cash, a hand-crafted trophy designed by a local artist and a professional promotional video and photography package for their project.
For more information about the awards, go to nrc.govt.nz.