Onehunga Community Recycling Centre - a true community resource

12.07.23 01:18 PM By WasteMINZ
The Onehunga Community Recycling Centre team

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. 

Staff inspect the goods at the CRC

The set up and operation of the CRC is unique in many ways, with a number of firsts. The project demonstrates leadership and innovation, and the power of partnerships and collaboration.

Auckland Council and the Ministry for the Environment jointly funded the design and build of the new Onehunga CRC. The council provided land and initial capital, and additional funding was provided from the Government’s Waste Minimisation Fund.


The project is also the result of a unique collaboration between two highly respected social enterprises who were chosen to operate the CRC. The Synergy Projects Trust and Localised Limited established a 50:50 joint venture company, Onehunga Zero Waste (OZW).


OZW’s mission is to work with local communities to inspire them to zero waste living. The community hub focuses on reuse, repair, repurposing, and upcycling, while reducing carbon emissions and creating local jobs and training opportunities in the process. The team also run repair cafès and restoration workshops with a huge focus on education to help local people change their behaviour around minimising waste. The CRC also enables the community and local businesses to drop off a range of waste, recycling and reusable materials throughout the week.


OZW was nominated and named a finalist in the WasteMINZ Awards for Excellence 2023. A key focus for all partners of OZW is being better ancestors, redressing the wrongs of the past, and to engaging the community in kaitiakitanga and climate resilience.


The CRC has inspired others and is often show-cased by Auckland Council and MFE as best practice design and operation. It is frequently used for site tours attended by council staff, elected members and other Councils across Aotearoa and the Pacific.


Onehunga Zero Waste’s Ron Muavae says the CRC is a hub of activity focusing on education, reuse and providing a safe space for the community to gather.


“Every time people come through, the common phrase we hear is ‘I felt at home’ – they don’t feel they are at a commercial space.

“The community is really engaged. They love it – they know they can come in and chill out, relax, learn things, buy things, and know they don’t have to go and create more waste.”                                                                                                                                

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.”

Ron says the opening of the CRC was initiated by the tamariki and their whanau in the community. Families were losing their homes to development, and children started asking where their homes went.

“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.”

Onehunga CRC is a hub for the community

Innovation at the heart of OZW


The CRC was opened in August 2022. In addition to drop-off services and a large shop it also includes offices, a café and an education centre housed within a relocated state house and an old school classroom.


Prior to the opening, OZW embarked on a minor renovation project with a $30,000 budget so the new hub reflected the local community. Even this was used as an opportunity for people in the community to be involved and learn new skills. The team engaged local tradespeople, community groups, and schools to help out with decorating, painting, and replacing fixtures, fittings, and carpets. The finish was to a very high standard and has been praised by the Council and visitors to the site.


The Council’s innovative procurement approach has helped OZW obtain over $700,000 in impact investment from Foundation North. The security of having a long-term council contract enabled the opportunity for accessing start-up capital and loans to support the council’s 10-year Funding Agreement.


The approach by OZW has been to partner with other local enterprises to share the facilities.


Since opening, the OZW team has also formed strong relationships with other stakeholders in the climate impact community. Organisations like Pacific Vision Aotearoa, Repair Aotearoa, Tamaki Wrap, Kahui Ako Group (local schools) have come together to deliver joint programmes and workshops. These have helped promote zero waste and circular economy principles and to change the behaviour of our communities dealing with waste.


The OZW team are excited to serve the community every day.

Delivering positive impact for the community


The community has embraced the CRC since it opened. In addition to altering the behaviour of many local residents in how they engage with waste, there have been many other workshops, opportunities and benefits for the community:

  • A Climate Justice Exhibition was held which attracted over 300 people and included an art exhibition addressing climate effects on Pasifika Communities and Islands.
  • Arranged over 40 site tours for schools, community groups and council staff.
  • Engaged with local schools to provide waste minimisation workshops for students, and to be a platform for the schools to display and share student’s climate impact work for the public to view.
  • Established holiday programmes including workshops on waste minimisation impact and behaviour change.
  • E-waste repair programmes targeting intermediate, secondary and college students to repurpose, repair and recycle e-waste.
  • Held a number of youth mentoring and training sessions including Barista courses and Upcycle workshops.


OZW currently employs 8 passionate staff, who, as Ron says, are excited to go to work and serve the community every day.

With more than 4,000 customer transactions and over 100 tonnes in a year sold through the reuse shop the current landfill waste diversion rate is 92%, which is a significantly high rate for a resource recovery site in Aotearoa.