Waikato, more than a river runs through it.

First stop: Pūniu River Care initiative; an embodiment of the region's commitment to environmental stewardship.

Momentum Waikato championed the mahi of Pūniu River Care, with a Vital Waikato Grant as part of their Vital Impact Programme. With the help of that grant, Pūniu River Care was also one of just two Waikato region recipients to receive funding from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) Freshwater Improvement Fund.

Pūniu River Care is a community-led project focused on preserving and enhancing the ecological health of the Pūniu River and its surrounding environment. Stepping into their world felt like entering a sanctuary where volunteers, like modern-day guardians, work tirelessly to ensure the river's vitality for generations to come.

“Following a welcome onto the Mangatoatoa Pā it was wonderful to receive a tour of the Pūniu River Care project which is an established marae based river care group supported by four local marae and led by Shannon Te Huia. Pūniu River Care grow over 700,000 high quality native and rare plants every year in efforts to regenerate the local Pūniu River. I was amazed at the scale and vision of the project to create ‘safe places, healthy water and healthy people’,” said Arron.

Visting the Pūniu River Care base at Mangatoatoa Marae just south of Te Awamutu

The project includes riparian fencing to exclude stock, erosion protection works, planting 160,000 locally sourced native trees, and creation of a bilingual, open-source guide for marae-based restoration to enable growth in the development of other new organisations undertaking similar kaupapa.

“It is amazing to see how much their nursery operation has grown over the last six years – they’ve now planted over three-and-a-half million trees,” said Mark Servian, Communications and Marketing Manager with Momentum Waikato. “Pūniu River Care is exemplar for what ‘seed funding’ can set in motion.”

Second Stop: Tirohanga, the Houchen Wellness Space, has been established and is operated by Wise Group, in partnership with Momentum Waikato, the guardian of the Houchen family’s vision for the site.

Janice Lapwood, Momentum Waikato’s Development Director, Aaron Perriam, CFANZ Executive Director, Holly Snape, Board Member Momentum Waikato, Mark Servian, Communications and Marketing Manager Momentum Waikato visit Tirohanga.

“Tirohanga is a healthy and safe environment to find a sense of belonging and connection." Sometimes you just feel overwhelmed, so we take it back to the basics of well-being, free of judgement. You have mana and were born with mana, here is place for you to heal yourself.” said Erana Severne, Wise Group’s Operations Manager.

The services at Tirohanga so far include a mama and baby retreat space, wellness and community support workshops ranging from yoga to garden-to-plate, and hosting events for the immediate local community.

“There’s a quote that goes, ‘The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’. The Tirohanga Houchen Wellness Space is such a place, where mothers and pepi can go to restore, relax and rediscover their wellbeing. This is clearly a place of healing held in the hand and heart of the Waikato community,” said Arron

Third stop had Arron warming up the vocals even though the facility is a few years off being stage-ready, at the transformational new Waikato Regional Theatre.

Arron Perriam at the Waikato Regional Theatre site with Fosters’ Site Manager David Middlemiss.

Momentum Waikato saw an opportunity to go above and beyond when the Hamilton City Council was faced with a $25 million bill to simply restore the condemned Founders theatre. In response Momentum Waikato approached the Council in July 2016 and proposed to lead a robust process to develop a new Waikato Regional Theatre (WRT), starting with a strategic review to both define the venue’s specifications and identify the best location.

Since then, it has driven a $80 million fundraising effort and set up and enabled the project’s governance bodies, successfully navigating a host of challenges along the way.

“Wow what a significant local community project and achievement by Momentum Waikato Ccommunity Foundation to lead the capital raising over $60 million. The Waikato Regional Theatre is a multipurpose performing arts centre seating circa 1300 people which, will again attract the richness of the arts back to the region.. The benefit to the wider Waikato community, and the extent of fundraising required has meant this has been an ambitious project requiring masterful execution.", said Arron.

The new Waikato Regional Theatre will be a world-class facility and a community asset, a flexible performing arts centre able to host every kind of show, and a bustling new entertainment hub in the heart of Hamilton city.

“Hamilton is the fastest growing centre in the country. In ten years when this town is bigger, we’ll be glad to have this modern Theatre on our doorstep,” said Mark.

Date Posted: 15 Dec 2023

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