By Nikki Sturrock
WOW 20 years!! I am so excited, thankful and humbled that The Great Drain Game is still going strong after all these years. I can still see and feel the frustration, as my normally mild mannered and lovely boyfriend bashed and clattered around the kitchen spouting expletives and burning dinner. Campbell, a water pollution officer, had sadly dealt with hundreds of dead eels, fish, shellfish and polluted beaches. He’d had to prosecute and fine many citizens and businesses for pouring their wastes down the drain. Some intentionally!! And had spent many hours cleaning up, a very stressful and often heart breaking and often thankless job. Don’t even get me started on the Car wash Fundraisers!! “Would your poor it in your fish tank?! Would ya!!”
And “Now!” he tells me, “now! The great new way to combat this everyday environmental catastrophe and total lack of education is to spend yet another $60k of tax payer money on..” he waits for a pause glaring at me with a serving spoon in his hand,…”printing NEW f#*king PAMPHLETS!! Because of course a new brochure rewording last years brochure explaining that outside drains are actually living streams! people! and ever so politely please, dispose of your waste down an inside drain or take it to the transfer station like people who actually give a sh#t! Oh but this new brochure is going to work soooo much better than last years brochure or the year before that! or the year before that!…. because this year someone had the total brainwave to make it… f#^king GLOSSY!!!” At this point he realizes the contents of the serving spoon, burnt though it is, is now sliding off the light bulb above him.
He sighs and looks at me…”people just don’t know that pouring anything down an outside drain is just tipping poison into our streams and killing creatures all the way to the sea. Its not until we have caught them and my team are fining them do they understand and this does not endear them at all, to streams struggling to hang in there.”
I learnt a lot from that evening and while he had been downloading he had know idea he was bringing an incredible world to life for me, in all honesty before that moment I had never considered drains, they were just invisibly there, I had even flicked cigarette buts down them in my rebel years (I thought it best to keep that to myself as he had been hacking spuds with a carving knife and smoke was rising around him when the thought had occurred to me). Let alone imagining the incredible life that tries to survive beneath our city streets.
During this awakening I drew the Great Drain Game for Campbell, I felt sure if people could play it they’d understand the life we have to lose. I went on to build 5 games for 4 councils and at its peak 250 school kids were playing it every day and it was doing the rounds of festivals and events at weekends. I lost count of players 10 years ago at about 300,000 and now the game is in its 20th year.
I am so grateful to my boyfriend now husband and father of my children for the inspiration and learning he is to me. I am also so grateful to all the people who worked with me to make the game happen. The Auckland Regional Council, The North Shore City Council, Hawkes Bay regional Council, Tauranga city Council, Nelson City Council, Auckland City Council, Keep New Zealand Beautiful , Kids 4 Drama and the all the kids, volunteers and workers who played, then taught others how to play.
Lastly but by no means least I would like to thank Tread Lightly for continuing the work. You can book it at www.tread-lightly.org/programmes/drain-game. I was so chuffed to be invited to see it in action. I was bowled over when a young woman about 20 years old, there representing a potential sponsor, said ” Hey! I remember you, you taught me how to play The Great Drain Game when I was just a kid” about 12 years previous we worked out and now here she was wanting the company she worked for to get on board as a sponsor! Speaking of sponsors a shout out to Kelly Tarltons and Tom Ryan Transport!
I hope you enjoy the photos and for those of you who played the game thank you and remember:
Outside Drains flow to the Sea.
Inside Drains flow to a treatment Plant.
Outside Drains are only for rain.