BNZ Foundation backs marine restoration, social vehicle leasing and community support network in first round of partnerships

Restoring marine biodiversity, empowering low-income families with affordable low-emissions transport, and developing new ways to support New Zealanders facing financial difficulty are the focus of three projects selected for support through the BNZ Foundation’s inaugural grant round.

$590,000 will go to three charitable programmes: Revive Our Gulf, Waka Aronui, and a new partnership aimed at improving community resilience.

“This marks a significant milestone for the Foundation as we transition from planning to action,” says Dan Huggins, BNZ Foundation Chair. “After 18 months laying the groundwork for the Foundation, we’re delighted to now be in the position to provide tangible support to projects that will make a significant, positive difference for New Zealand.

“The organisations we are partnering with share our vision for a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Aotearoa and align with our funding mandate to make strategic investments in the areas of regenerating biodiversity and improving financial wellbeing,” Mr Huggins says.

Restoring the Hauraki Gulf’s marine ecosystem

Revive Our Gulf—spearheaded by the Mussel Reef Restoration Trust in collaboration with iwi and research partners—is set to receive a significant boost with a three-year, $450,000 commitment from the BNZ Foundation.

The project is at the forefront of restoring the Hauraki Gulf’s soft sediment kūtai (green lipped mussel) reefs: vital ecosystems that once flourished in the region. The project aims to increase biodiversity, enhance water quality, and re-establish critical natural habitats for marine life.

Revive Our Gulf has already deployed over 350 tonnes of mussels in experimental mussel beds in the Hauraki Gulf. As these beds continue to grow in number, thorough monitoring becomes increasingly important. The BNZ Foundation’s financial support will fuel the development of a comprehensive programme for monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on the Gulf’s health and the effectiveness of restoration efforts.

Empowering low-income families with sustainable transportation

Currently in the second year of a three-year pilot in south Auckland, Waka Aronui is a social car leasing programme which aims to provide low-income whānau with safe, affordable, and low-emissions vehicles to support an equitable transition to a greener future.

Many low-income families grapple with costly, high-interest vehicle finance, often leading to unaffordable, poorly maintained, and uninsured vehicles. The pilot, spearheaded by the Ākina Foundation and the Manukau Urban Māori Authority, has shown promising results, improving financial and mental wellbeing, along with environmental benefits through CO2 emissions reductions.

With a $110,000 grant from the BNZ Foundation, a comprehensive feasibility study will explore options to scale the programme to new regions across New Zealand as well as the potential to incorporate new solutions such as vehicle sharing and e-bikes.

Growing the financial wellbeing of New Zealanders

Thanks to seed funding from a range of philanthropic foundations, including a $30,000 contribution from the BNZ Foundation, The Centre for Sustainable Finance: Toitū Tahua is establishing a new partnership between corporates, iwi and community organisations to support more resilient communities. The partnership aims to foster collaboration between corporates and community organisations and encourage new practices, products and services that ensure New Zealanders facing economic hardship can always access essential goods and services.

“These partnerships reflect our commitment to impactful investment. It’s about taking a targeted approach, making every dollar count, and ensuring that our resources bring about substantial and lasting positive change for the country,” says Mr Huggins.

John McCarthy, BNZ Foundation Independent Trustee, says, “The investment decisions we make are deeply rooted in the principles of Kaitiakitanga and Manaakitanga, values that all our partners embody. We look forward to working closely with them and accelerating positive change for our communities.”

For more information on the BNZ Foundation and its funding programmes, please visit

Photo courtesy of Arie Spyskma.