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OK Dinghy worlds

Wakatere reach environmental gold standard

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The medals were handed out last week at the end of the OK Dinghy world championships and the Wakatere Boating Club received a gold standard of their own for their environmental work.

Wakatere achieved gold certification from Sailors for the Sea for their efforts at the recent Symonite OK Dinghy World Championships. Sailors for the Sea, which is an organisation that unites yachties and boaties to help protect the oceans, have put together 25 best practices clubs can follow to create a clean regatta, ranging from waste management and recycling to sustainable dinner options and responsible signage.

"It's huge for us," Delayne Salthouse said of Wakatere attaining gold status. "When we first started this project we said that we could possibly achieve silver status but there was a very long way to go before we could get gold."

Salthouse has been driving the club's environmental efforts at the Wakatere Boating Club, which has brought about considerable change in the way they do things and in the attitudes of their members. She said change had to start from the top and she was co-opted onto the club's committee as an environmental officer.

"The No 1 thing we would recommend to any club is to sign one or two people to that [environmental] role," Salthouse said. "So for me, it was joining the committee as the environmental person and the committee have been totally supportive and committed.

"I haven't felt like I'm beating against the door. Everything is open and every purchase or decision we make is done with the environment in mind. It has to start from the top so it can then filter down to the members."

Salthouse said it wasn't as daunting as it might sound and that all clubs, regardless of size and resources, could achieve change.

"Start small and build," she said. "We started with our rubbish bins because we were sending most of our stuff to landfill. People weren't making good choices at all.

"We now have three streams of bins - recycling, compost and landfill - and we went from there. Now we're slowly rolling one thing into the next."

Wakatere's efforts were, however, brought into sharp focus by the fact they were hosting the OK Dinghy World Championships and the changes have been considerable. 

  • Over a three-day period during the regatta, they removed 1800 litres of recycling, 750 litres of compost and only 350 litres of landfill. Previously, nearly all 2900 litres would have gone to landfill.
  • They were committed to a paperless regatta and not printing unnecessary documents. The notice of race, sailing instructions and results were posted online and only one copy pinned to a corkboard. In terms of the notice of race, this saved 1150 pages of printing.
  • A number of bags, including the sailors' pack and volunteer lunches, were made from pre-used sails donated by Doyle Sails.
  • Any water bottles sold were made from plants and were 100 percent compostable. Competitors, officials and volunteers could also refill their bottles at refilling stations.
  • Dinner plates, cutlery and bin liners were all compostable.
  • Banners were made from biodegradable materials.
  • Legasea Lager was available in aluminium cans, rather than bottles, and a percentage of profits given to sustainable fishing.
  • The majority of boats were hosed down on grass areas to reduce the amount of runoff that ended up in the ocean.
  • The use of coach boats was not encouraged and, in the end, only three were used by a fleet of 111 competitors.

The next step for Wakatere is to build their environmental work into their coaching programmes and also to ensure they don't slip back into bad habits.

"The challenge is having continuity," Salthouse said. "Yes, you can do these things for regattas but it's then important to make sure the systems put in place continue and you don't revert back to the old ways.

"The biggest challenge is changing people's habits and creating new habits. It's about making sure this is the new way of life at the club."