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Our Challenge/Te Wero – Sustainability Goal 6

Have a read to understand the United Nations Sustainability goal number 6, and read what the challenge is in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
River in a forest passing over rocks

Clean Water and Sanitation – United Nations Sustainability Goal 6

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were created as a call for action by all countries (developed and developing) to partner together to improve peace and prosperity for people and the planet.

Aotearoa, New Zealand has embraced these goals and interpreted them within the country or within each region in the country.

The challenge that we are using the Design Thinking Process on, is in relation to Goal 6:

How might we ensure available and sustainable managed of water and sanitation for all?

In the Waikato region of New Zealand this goal was interpreted into a specific target for 2030. The target was created through consultation with the many stakeholders of the Waikato region.

The target: Increase the number of swimmable rivers and lakes in the Waikato from 30 % (rivers) and 73% (Lakes) in 2019 to both waterbody types achieving more than 80% by 2030.

By achieving this target it means that the waterways will contribute to the health of our region. A summarising quote on how the waterways are perceived by the community is shared by the Waikato wellbeing project “I am the river, and the river is me. If the river is unwell, I am unwell”. “Ko au te Awa, Ko te Awa Ko au”

Swimmable means much more than just being able to swim. This relates to the E.coli and planktonic bacteria within the water bodies – but also relates to how water is used, the flows within the waterbodies and the sedimentation and erosion that has occurred.

Biculturalism and Water

To really understand this challenge there are many different perspectives which need to be collected, understood and meaning created. The Treaty of Waitangi partnership ensures that knowledge is considered and valued from Māori and European perspectives, and that meaning is then created together to ensure the important values are not lost. For successful outcomes the co-perspectives should be intertwined together throughout the project.

Design Thinking

Water and biculturalism make a great challenge for a Design Thinking project. Design Thinking works best on challenges that are nebulous (need a better word). It works well when the challenge is poorly defined, or we=hen knowledge is held within users rather than in publications. Many of the sustainable goals are as a result of “progress”, progress with systems and technology at the expense of people and environment. With users the centre of the sustainable development goals, Design Thinking becomes a very effective tool to bring together varying perspectives and to act on it.


As mentioned you have two ways to engage in this Futurelearn course. 1) You can follow along with our project and add your reflections or 2) You can carry out your own investigation. Choose an appropriate action and post an answer in the comments section.

1) What challenges do you have in your country region related to water? Who are the cultures that are involved? Post a response in the comments.

2) Carry out some research on water challenges in your region and pick an appropriate challenge that you would like to investigate? Post an answer in the comments.

Some examples could be:

How could you restore the river to its natural state? What could you do to help the water become cleaner? How could you reduce the erosion that is occurring?

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Solving Sustainability Challenges with Te Ao Māori (Māori World View)

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