Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce their waste.
The goal of becoming para kore (zero waste) is based on circular economy principles. The educational programme teaches whānau to reuse materials, sort waste properly, recycle and compost, and most importantly, to plan ahead for how they will manage waste so that as little as possible is generated and sent to landfill.
The challenges of dealing with waste on a marae
Dealing with waste generated on a marae comes with unique challenges. For example, the responsibility rests on volunteers, meetings may be irregular and have different people coming and going, and there is generally no funding for waste management.
Because of these challenges, the systems that have been shown to be successful to reduce waste on marae are likely to also be successful in other settings such as schools and businesses, where some of those barriers are not present (i.e. the same people consistently attend and there may be more resources available). Para Kore started with educating marae groups, but the format has since proven successful with schools and other organisations as well. Of the roughly 330 groups supported by Para Kore, around half are marae and the rest are other organisations.
Learnings from Para Kore could be shared with other community groups around Aotearoa New Zealand.
What can be learned from Para Kore’s success?
Getting buy-in from leaders and making sure waste reduction is on the agenda is key. Para Kore meet groups in person and normally present to the marae committee in the first instance to establish waste management as a priority and to form the relationship.
The marae need to nominate an internal person who will champion the movement. Supporting the wider group to transform their usual practices will take time and effort, so ensuring there is someone to lead by example and keep up encouragement is important.
Para Kore continues to strengthen their relationship with ongoing support. After providing the initial information and training, the regional advisor generally checks in each year with the group. This is made possible by the organisational structure where a group of regional advisors based around the country are centrally managed. Having this set-up also allows for shared resources and consistent systems and teaching across the country.
They also offer support to get the message to a broader group by delivering wānanga to whānau. This may be through the Para Kore team presenting at a larger hui, or by sharing teaching resources so that the group can lead this education piece themselves.
At the beginning, Para Kore do a waste audit to understand current amounts and types of waste being produced, and what systems should be established to move towards zero waste. They also provide a way to track waste, so that the group can measure their improvements. This works to make the efforts seem tangible and also provides a basis for ongoing improvement by showing where next steps could be taken.
In addition to providing resources and information, Para Kore physically help establish the systems for recycling and composting that will enable the marae to do the right thing with their waste. One of the most important parts of the physical set up is ensuring that there are clear labels that explain what goes in each different bin. Para Kore has also worked with WasteMINZ to develop te reo Māori translations for rubbish and recycling bin labelling that are available to be used anywhere.
Room to grow
Para Kore was officially launched in 2009. During the past 10 years, over 220,000 people have attended presentations, wānanga and events hosted by the organisation. Almost all of the groups that have been through the Para Kore programme have been in the North Island, with only a couple in the top of the South Island on board. There is plenty of room for the programme to expand its teachings further if resourced to do so.