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Putting the ‘heart’ into freshwater data

Press Release – Greater Wellington Regional Council
The Regional Council is innovating ways to transform and humanise freshwater data to drive positive change, through CreativeHQ’s NZ GovTech Accelerator programme.

Council experts are coming to the end of the three-month programme that works with eight local and central government agencies to problem solve complex issues in low-risk, innovative ways.

At the heart of the project team’s problem is, how might we better share information with communities in a way which is meaningful to them, and allows them to understand, engage with, and take care of water in their community

The solution lies in humanising the data so it can become meaningful, relatable and actionable, says Ainslee Brown, environment technical support officer and project member.

“Our focus is to help communities, businesses and government to access freshwater data to support and drive positive freshwater outcomes.

“But our current challenge lies in the fact that freshwater data is stored in a fragmented way. There’s lots of it – but there is no collective, centralised responsibility for the management and accessibility of this data.

Currently, the team’s vision is to create an online platform that uses storytelling and data visualisation to present freshwater data, enables community contribution and is transparent about priorities and pathways to improve freshwater outcomes.

“We’ve put considerable effort into understanding what initiatives are already underway in the community so we can cater for those who are already active in this space,” says Ainslee.

With a month left to go, the project team have interviewed over 50 people and conducted site visits to understand the outcomes their audience cares about.

In addition, conversations are underway with catchment communities such as Owhiro Bay and other agencies to understand how we share this valuable data.

The council’s senior environmental monitoring officer and project member Sam Gundersen says: “Throughout this process, it’s become really clear that we wanted to put people, the community, at the heart of the problem we are trying to solve.

“And by sitting down and talking with all these people, we quickly began to appreciate we’re all trying to achieve the same things. It’s just a matter of aligning and unifying these movements, so collectively we can look after our freshwater.”

The purpose of the accelerator is to help participants approach a problem from multiple angles which inform future discussions and decision making, rather than provide a single, determined outcome.

Council Environment Committee Chair and councillor Penny Gaylor says: “The wellbeing of freshwater is a really high priority for our generation, there is a lot being done in this space but more work still needs to be done.

“This accelerator programme is an excellent chance to examine challenges within freshwater data and identify the opportunities, so we can collectively drive positive freshwater outcomes.”

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