Meet the 16 winners of the 2021 Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards.
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Environmental action in education
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Ratapiko School - for empowering students to take action to build a sustainable community.
Ratapiko School may be small in numbers but its pupils have giant-sized enthusiasm for the environment. With a roll varying from nine to 30 in the past three years, they’ve planted 800 trees on-site and on local farms, and regularly remove kilograms of rubbish from around the Ratapiko School and Lake area. They upcycled 1500 plastic bottles to make a greenhouse for seed growing, and also built a pizza oven. Pupils trap possums and rats and have established an orchard and garden to provide food for the community. They’re also active with East Taranaki Environment Collective (formerly Experience Purangi) and The Maunga Project. They’re proud to be an Enviroschool, working to improve their community environment and are eager to make more progress on their sustainability journey.
Waitara East School - for empowering students to take action to build a sustainable community
Waitara East students truly are ‘ngā kaitiaki mō āpōpō’ or the future caretakers of our planet. The school has a long-term commitment to sustainability and students are immersed in all things environmental, with support from iwi, hapū and Enviroschools. As the students gain more knowledge, they learn how to use it in the real world by identifying issues relevant to their community and finding solutions. The learning is hands-on, interactive and place-based, with visits to the local awa, whenua, maunga and moana. They learn about using nature-based products such as harakeke, over plastic, and about composting, pest trapping, coastal erosion, the rocky shore, land use and pollution. They’re also planning to restore a wetland in the school grounds to use as an outdoor classroom.
New Horizons Aotearoa - for empowering rangatahi to take action to protect and restore the environment
New Horizons Aotearoa is a successful mentoring programme especially for intermediate-aged rangatahi who may not otherwise get an opportunity like this. More than 220 students have been through the programme since it started in 2015. The environment is an important aspect, and the rangatahi have built more than 150 high-spec predator traps since 2018. That’s enough for a 15-kilometre trapline protecting 12,500 hectares. The rangatahi are proud of their traps, with many of them individually decorated. Most are deployed on Maunga Taranaki, with the rest at schools or reserves. The rangatahi broaden their environmental knowledge and experience with visiting speakers and field trips. They learn that they can make a positive difference, and many continue voluntary predator control and habitat restoration after they leave.
Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust - for empowering young people to take action to protect and restore the environment
It’s not just precious native species that are being protected, encouraged and nourished at Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust’s renowned sanctuary near Eltham. The Trust is also cultivating wildlife warriors and environmental advocates through its Youth Ambassador Programme. Almost 50 young people have been through the programme in its first five years, taking a hands-on approach as they learn about predator control, monitoring native birdlife, creating habitats for invertebrates and monitoring and improving the health of wetlands. The senior programme was developed because the young people didn’t want to leave after graduating from the original programme! As well as joining the ranks of Rotokare’s regular volunteers, many also get involved with other conservation projects across the region, and even create their own.
Coastal Taranaki School - for empowering rangatahi to take action to protect and restore the environment.
Students from Coastal Taranaki School have a key role in efforts to protect precious native species in the Blue Rata Reserve and Taranaki maunga. For three years they’ve successfully managed a line of 26 predator traps along Hangatāhua Awa, or Stony River, making regular checks for rats, stoats and possums. It’s an important contribution to a wider effort that’s already getting results, judging by increased sightings of native birds, including tūī, kererū, pihipihi, or silvereye, and pīwakawaka. Whio, or blue duck, have even been spotted on the Stony. Coastal Taranaki School students are also involved in seed collection, propagation, gardening and composting as part of their ‘Māra’ programme where they learn to understand and value the practices of conservation, sustainability and kaitiakitanga.