For Onehunga residents, the Onehunga Community Recycling Centre is seen as a safe place for the community - a place where people can connect, share ideas and emotions, whilst feeling a sense of belonging.
The first Māori/Pasifika-led community resource recovery centre in Aotearoa, the Community Recycling Centre (CRC) was used to shelter and support residents during the Auckland floods in early 2023.
Through its everyday work, the Onehunga CRC provides many social, cultural and environmental benefits to the community, and helps locals reclaim what they’ve lost.
Ian Stupple, Executive Director of Localised, tells us more.
Getting off the ground
Since 2014 Auckland Council has had a clear vision to deliver a network of community recycling centres as part of its Resource Recovery Network strategy. It has adopted and developed a social procurement approach which seeks to deliver a range of social, cultural, and environmental outcomes. To date 11 CRCs have been opened, all operated by community enterprises, with a further three opening this year.
Prior to the Onehunga CRC procurement going to market, the council funded a capacity building programme for community enterprises interested in operating CRCs. This supported groups such as The Synergy Projects Trust, a highly respected Onehunga based organisation providing a range of community and youth services, and connected them to the wider community recycling sector.
Recognising they had local knowledge but lacked resource recovery operations experience, Synergy approached Localised (100% owned by the Zero Waste Network) for support. Localised were able to offer support to navigate the council process whilst raising capital and building local capacity.
“Synergy are the ideal partners for Localised to work with as we share the same vision, values, and Kaupapa,” Ian says.
“Their strong local connections meant the new enterprise was embraced by the community before the doors even opened. Localised were able to support the tendering and start up stages whilst bringing the technical expertise to the operations. Our staff enjoy their staff and vice versa, and we all value what each other bring.”
“We took something they were passionate about and built this hub, and it has built a belief and confidence in them that they matter.”
“These weren’t just homes to them - they were everything. It was their identity, it was who they are, it was their memories – their whole being.
“The kids started asking where their homes went – it was such a simple question and it started this entire journey. In a really deep sense, that’s what this journey has been about for the community - it’s about building sense of belonging and reclaiming what’s lost.”
During initial conversations with mana whenua, before the CRC was opened, kaumatua impressed upon Ron the importance of sharing the story of Onehunga. The centre is located on a closed landfill, where there was once a beautiful beach.
“We knew it was important to honour the journey of the place and honour the mana whenua – to tell its story in its most raw form, even though it hurts. To tell the story of this beautiful taonga that we’ve lost to development.
“That’s a big part of the centre – we tell the people’s story to anyone who comes to see us, wherever they are from.”
Ron says it’s rewarding to hear feedback from not only mana whenua, but also the youth who kicked the whole thing off. Many young people were “gobsmacked” to learn that they had made a difference in the community.
“Where they come from, they may have felt insignificant or swept aside, like they didn’t matter. So, it was important for them to know their views and their voice did matter.
“The centre has a mandate that it’s youth-initiated and youth-led. We took something they were passionate about and built this hub, and it has built a belief and confidence in them that they matter.”