Community based environmental monitoring and improvement groups

Surveys show that nearly 90 percent of the people think the environment is an important issue. Most of us would like to help our oceans or our streams recover. We also enjoy outings and social activities. Many groups of people are participating in a new social, outdoor activity that has some real value to our world - Community Science.

Participating in environmental science projects can be an exciting detective game - it takes you to interesting places and introduces you to a host of creatures that share our planet with us. In a way, it is getting to know the rest of the characters in the neighbourhood; including birds, nymphs, starfish, prawns, and cockles.

Getting to know your plant and animal neighbours can be a real eye-opener. First comes the discovery of our own links to the natural world, then comes the daunting realisation of how our daily actions can disturb - even kill - our delicate and tiny neighbours.

Beaches are important places for recreation and tourism. They are kept neat and tidy by a host of little creatures that work day and night cleaning up the sand and the dying algae and creatures that wash ashore from time to time. Without their help, our shores might not have that clean ocean smell. Streams, lakes and wetlands provide homes for plants and animals that keep the water clean and sweet for drinking. We use their water for homes, industries and farms, and our lakes and rivers are places of recreation and educational enjoyment. Yet water is easily polluted.

What the world needs now are people who take notice of their larger, natural community and then take action to make these communities flourish. And strangely enough this is happening. Community groups have been forming in many parts of New Zealand to help look after beaches, waterways and wetlands and to keep an eye on local water quality.

Through their commitment and hard work, community beach care and water monitoring groups have proven that concerned, well trained volunteers can make significant contributions to the health of our environment.

A team effort

Environmental monitoring and improvement projects are most successful when they involve a wide range of interested parties right from the start. The end goal is to gain VALUABLE information about the beaches or waterways that others will want to use in a community effort to maintain these in good health. The value of the measurements is not necessarily in their accuracy, the amount of data, or the frequency of sampling. Value is found is people's willingness to use the information and share in a common effort to improve conditions.

Years of experience has shown that "expert" environmental monitoring never manages to generate quite enough data to make informed decisions. The data may be highly accurate in some localities, but is rarely of enough public or political interest to incite changes in public behaviour. In essence, expert studies are generally unknown to the public and have little impact on their daily lives.

Community based monitoring generates large amounts of data from a wide area and lots of people in the local community know about the study and what it means. The study itself becomes a discovery of how the daily lives of everyone in the community impacts the waterways and coastal areas. If many different parts of the community are represented in the planning and monitoring phases, finding ways to improve the environment will be much easier.

Organise a Beach Care Group.

Organise a River Care Group