3 June 2021

Maya Kalbarczyk from University of Auckland (Geography Research Project), used Kaipātiki Project as a case study to research a sense of place. Maya's findings, published in Nov 2020, completely resonate with our values, our principles and why we love what we do! A strong sense of community spirit, collaboration, learning and a feeling of belonging enhance our connection to nature.

"This project aimed to study whether involvement in an environmental community care group can enhance or create a sense of place and whether this sense of place can improve the environmental outcomes of a community care group. A sense of place was defined a feeling of connection or belonging to a social group, as well as a feeling of connection to nature and the physical environment. Environmental outcomes included changes made to the physical environment as well as changes to an individual’s environmental perception, awareness, and behaviour. The Kaipātiki Project was used as a case study to analyse how a sense of place can be created and whether this can enhance environmental outcomes of the Project. Four key themes emerged from the research, summarised below:

1. Sense of place through a sense of community

A strong community spirit and supportive atmosphere was found to be a key factor which enhanced a feeling of place and connection to the environment. This community spirit was for many what gave a sense of satisfaction and kept them coming back to work/volunteer for Kaipātiki Project.

  • Social contact and interactions helped enhance a sense of place and contributed to people coming back and continuing to volunteer/work.
  • Social atmosphere helped create a shared sense of purpose and belonging in nature and the community.
  • The diverse, inclusive community at Kaipātiki, with people of different cultures, ages, abilities, and experiences was valued by the interviewees.
  • It was reported that a large proportion of volunteers working during the week were retired, as volunteering hours worked best with their schedule. It was mentioned a priority in the interviews to try make the place created at Kaipātiki more accessible to youth and working professionals by holding volunteer work opportunities at different times. This could help reach more individuals who could contribute to the sense of place at Kaipātiki Project.

2. Place-making through collaboration and learning

Collaboration and learning were also found to be key aspects of a sense of place at Kaipātiki. The ability to contribute one’s ideas and have a say regarding restoration goals and other aspects of the organisation was valuable for the interviewees, making them feel more connected and part of Kaipātiki Project.

  • Collaboration and learning helped make Kaipātiki Project more culturally diverse, relevant, and authentic.
  • The ability for Māori, Pasifika, Pākehā and other knowledge to be interwoven helped create a cultural richness in the Project and stimulated cultural learning hand-in-hand with environmental learning.
  • The participatory nature of the Project—having an opportunity to share one’s opinion and ideas—helped create a feeling of community, common place, and purpose.

3. Sense of place – connection to nature and the physical landscape

A feeling of belonging to place was found to enhance a feeling of connection to nature. Through environmental and restoration work in Kaipātiki Project a sense of stewardship and respect for the land was reported to have been created.

  • Being able to incorporate cultural values into work with nature meant that this work could become more meaningful.
  • The ability of an environmental community care group to act as an interface of culture and nature helps strengthen the relationship between the two.
  • The social relationships created through work in the Project decrease the gap between people and the environment, which may sometimes be perceived as separate components.
  • People become more aware of the ripple effect their actions may have on the environment through involvement in Kaipātiki Project.
  • It was found that a sense of stewardship and responsibility, as well as a desire to take care of the land can be more powerful when people feel connected to a community and a physical place.

4. Enhanced environmental outcomes from a sense of place

Through direct work with the environment in Kaipātiki Project, place becomes more meaningful to an individual and enhances their awareness of the environment.

  • Through involvement in Kaipātiki Project, growth in one’s environmental knowledge led to growth of oneself, through the development of new skills and capabilities.
  • By learning at Kaipātiki individuals become more perceptive, recognising features of the environment and processes that they had not noticed before.
  • Working with nature gave a sense of satisfaction and purpose, a feeling of pride that one is making a difference; individuals could see the difference that they made through their work.
  • Through learning and experience gained from involvement in Kaipātiki Project, individuals were able to change their behaviour to bring more positive environmental impacts, and share this knowledge with others to help increase environmental awareness and promote change."