Auckland , New Zealand

Twin Streams Project: Common Ground for Environmental Sustainability

May 17, 2009

Creating common ground for strong communities and environmental sustainability.

Streams are the lifeblood our planet and are generally a natural draw to the people who live around or near them.

Leveraging this spirit, the vision for Project Twin Streams is “Working together for healthy streams and strong communities: creating a sustainable future.”

Project Twin Streams, is an innovative community initiative that brings together diverse groups around the shared goal of restoring and reclaiming local streams. This multifaceted initiative is successfully overcoming cultural differences and encouraging a sustainable community development approach to urgent and local environmental issues such as storm water management, stream restoration and pollution.

Project Twin Streams is located in Waitakere City, one of seven territorial areas within the Auckland region and home to over 186,444 residents from a range of cultural communities. For instance, 16 per cent of residents identify as “Asian”, 15 per cent as Pacific peoples, 13 per cent as Maori and 10 per cent as “other.” Thirty four per cent were born overseas, and after English, Samoan is the most common language.

Project Twin Streams community catchment areas


Located in the heart of Waitakere City is 56 Km of stream banks that are the focus of Project Twin Streams (key facts and figures).

Around the issue of restoring the health of these local waterways, Project Twin Streams builds cross cultural relationships by encouraging local groups to take ownership and responsibility for finding and implementing solutions to the problems facing the water catchment. The result has been a growth in community spirit and connection. As one local resident described, “You get to know your neighbors…you know that you are not alone and that we “awhi and tautoko” [encourage and support] each other here.”

Project Twin Streams is the result of a local council- community partnership created in 2003 as part of the eco-city mandate for Waitakere City. Funding of NZ$39.5 million over a ten year period (from 2003-2012) allowed for the purchase of 100 properties in the 1:100 year flood plain to restore the natural flow of the waterways as well as 56 kilometers of streamside planting to create a natural filter for storm water runoff before it goes into the streams.

In order to engage the local community and build the sense of ownership over these issues, the Waitakere City Council began by contacting existing community groups to engage them in specific activities such as stream restoration, planning eco-sourced native plants, weeding, removing rubbish, and providing habitat for relocated native fauna.

A Cultured Environment
The use of arts to expand and celebrate community building is another unique aspect of Project Twin Streams. For example, six local community groups have collaborated on a sculpture to celebrate the cultural diversity involved in Project Twin Streams.  Janet Holt, the Project Twin Streams Arts Coordinator, says that the project has become increasingly exciting and taken on a life of its own: “This is community engagement in its purest form – all of these groups are working together to incorporate their ideas into the overall design.”

The resulting sculpture reflects this diversity. The central pillar of the sculpture is the theme of growth: the growth of nature, people, plants, community and cultures all around the stream. The bottom panel of the sculpture is based on Maori designs, the central pillar on designs from the Croatian community and the large leaves and birds on the top will be decorated in mosaics with Pacific designs.

By creatively engaging a community around a shared physical issue that was literally right in their backyard, Project Twin Streams became a channel to connect local people with their council and their neighbors and a way of encouraging new migrants to build a greater sense of ownership and connection to their new homes.

In 2007, Project Twin Streams received international recognition as a finalist in the International Thiess River Prize and was Highly Commended in the Sustainable Urban Communities Category at the Auckland Regional Council’s Sustainable Environment Awards.

The success of Project Twin Streams also helped to initiate several other projects including the Project Twin Streams Sustainable Household Living demonstration, the Millbrook Edible Garden and also resulted in changes to the management and operation of Vision Waitakere Gardens, a retirement village adjacent to the streams.

Making it Work for You:

  • The success of Project Twin Streams has been the innovative way in which it brought local community together around an issue larger than culture, language or religion.
  • Contacting community groups and assigning them specific responsibility for certain catchment areas and activities helps encourage ownership and investment in the project.
  • Is your outreach or environmental advocacy reaching ethnic and new immigrant communities? Increase your impact by taking in all members of your stakeholder community.
  • Promote the ancillary benefits of your environmental project to reach wider audience and new funding sources; such as, lifestyle changes that improve health, wellbeing and connection

For this Good Idea contact:

Dot Dalziell , Auckland Council
Regional Environmental Priorities Environmental Services Unit?
6 Henderson Valley Road,

Recent Good Ideas

Leamington, Canada
From Survival Jobs to Rich Harvest
Highline Mushrooms  

Brandon, Canada
Industry Leaders Connect to Recruit Newcomers
Maple Leaf Foods  

Halifax, Canada
Welcomed in Halifax
Halifax Regional Municipality  

Toronto, Canada
Eliminating Barriers for Displaced Individuals
WES Gateway Program  

Kuopio, Finland
Encouraging Cities to Bring Locals and Immigrants Together
City of Kuopio  

View all