Turning the tide on wastewater


The new high-tech Watercare Central Interceptor Discovery Centre is open for business in Auckland. Here's why you need to visit our latest collaboration project. 

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It's a liquid asset that we use every day to drink, clean and grow our food - yet most people don't realise that clean water is becoming an endangered resource globally. According to UNICEF, there are 2.2 billion people who lack access to safely managed drinking water services, and UNESCO has found that 80 per cent of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused.  

The world is facing more droughts, overpopulation pressure, and ageing water supply infrastructure. Case in point: In New Zealand, one of the biggest water problems that Watercare, a water-focused Auckland Council Organisation, faces, is that a large portion of 8,000km of the public wastewater pipes is corroded, and when it rains, wastewater overflows into the waterways. This contaminates the water supply and causes more wastage. However, there’s some excellent news: the answer from Watercare is the Central Interceptor, and while it sounds like a superhero name, that’s because it deserves it, but for water-saving reasons.

The Central Interceptor is a massive, 14.7km-long, 4.5m-wide wastewater tunnel that runs between 15m to 110m below the surface. “It can fit a giraffe height-wise, and four rhinos side-by-side, and when it’s complete in 2025, it will reduce the wastewater overflow by up to 80 per cent,” says Shayne Cunis, the Executive Programme Director of the Central Interceptor at Watercare. It’s being built by Ghella Abergeldie Joint Venture (GA) contractors, who have over 150 years’ experience in tunnelling and wastewater projects around the globe, and it will run from Grey Lynn to the Māngere Wastewater Treatment Plant. It’s being dug with a massive TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) and it will have several link sewers and shafts along the route for collecting and transferring wastewater into the tunnel.

However, if you really want to learn about the magic of this super-tunnel, then you need to visit the state-of-the-art Watercare Central Interceptor Discovery Centre. It’s an interactive learning experience that educates Auckland residents on the benefits that health waterways have on the community and the environment. The Because team collaborated with Marque to create this project and we’re beyond proud of the results. The coolest part? It’s a decked-out, customised trailer that can be moved around to different community events and it’s designed to offer an immersive story experience that’s dialled up through smart technology and smart design.

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The trailer and experience are split into two parts: Discovery and Adventure. The Discover area is where the hands-on, cutting-edge interactive technology, including the slide puzzle map, Augmented Reality sandbox game and Virtual Reality, is found, while the Adventure area is a mini theatre with huge interactive LED screens on three sides. The mini theatre offers different visual and sensory experiences, like for example, being inside the TBM as it digs its way through the earth, or as a multi-touchpoint ‘classroom’ which provides info on the Interceptor.  

We needed a guide for the trailer, and that’s where we had a eureka moment: we created a beautifully animated character, Waimā the Longfin Eel, to link the whole experience together. Anguilla dieffenbachia is a long-fin eel which is endemic to New Zealand, and their numbers are currently declining due to ecological pressure. They live in our waterways, streams and rivers – and just like us – need clean water to survive. “Waimā” means clean water in Te Reo, and eels are a taonga, an important cultural treasure.

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Waimā is the perfect ambassador for the benefits of the Central Interceptor, and she guides guests through the experience. She can be used on all touchpoints and can be a great figure to work into a school's programme. We created her ‘voice’ by recruiting famous Mai FM DJ Tegan Yorwarth as she was a natural fit for the charismatic water-dweller.

In short, (and we may be a little biased here) we think the Watercare Central Interceptor Discovery Centre turns on the taps for better education for the Auckland residents. It turns what could be a boring, but crucial, subject into a uniquely immersive experience complete with an animated Longfin eel, interactive touch screens, bespoke games, 3D photo frames and VR adventures. “The because team is filled with consummate professionals: they were proactive, offered innovative ideas, and relied on their extensive skills and experience to deliver the project on time and within budget,” says Peter Wilson, Stakeholder & Communications Lead for the Central Interceptor at Watercare.

Not only does this tricked-out trailer make education about sustainability and ecological topics more fun, but it also helps to spread awareness and increase engagement around the Interceptor among the market that matters: the residents of Auckland.

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If you’d like to create a bespoke experience or mobile marketing platform like the one above, let’s meet for a coffee. We want to make waves in your business too.