17 August 2022
Children from four schools braved tricky conditions while contributing to wetland conservation during a mass planting exercise in South Waikato this month.
More than 280 students aged 10 to 13 from Paterangi School, Puahue School, Ōhaupō School and Ngahinapōuri Schools collectively planted 4000 plants at four sites in the Manga-o-Tama catchment.
Work to improve freshwater quality and biodiversity in the 7700-hectare Manga-o-Tama catchment is part of the Department of Conservation-Fonterra Living Water partnership. It draws on contributions from Manga-o-tama Stream and Wetland Restoration Trust (MSWRT), Ngāti Apakura, Waipa District Council, NZ Landcare Trust and Waikato Regional Council.
DOC Senior Ranger Dion Patterson says environmental and cultural education is at the forefront of Living Water, and the schools involved in this month’s planting approached DOC about participating. This year’s planting exercise built on previous work involving schools last year.
This year’s planting was undertaken by the school children occurred on land the farm owners had retired. Riparian planting on on those parts of the properties reduces the risk of nutrient and sediment run-off into nearby streams which subsequently flow into the Waipa River.
“The planting sites were chosen because they would provide optimum benefit to the environment. The landowners were all really happy for schools to be planting on their farms and could see the environmental education delivered for the children and how their farms and support contribute towards the children’s learning.
“For two of the plantings, a cultural education element was woven into the pre-planting talks. We were grateful to Te ao Apaapa from NZ Landcare Trust who provided great historical context and insights to value wetlands and improved freshwater quality provides to Māori.”
Several days of wet weather leading up to the planting days didn’t bode well, but the children showed great commitment and energy enduring muddy conditions to get the plants in the ground.
“The atmosphere was all very positive and the students, school principals, teachers and landowners appreciated the opportunity to actively participate in the environmental initiative.”
Scott Wilson, principal of Puahue School near Kihikihi, says 55 of his students attended the planting day.
“We’re also involved in the Maungatautari Ecological Environmental Trust, and this was our third planting exercise in the last few weeks – and it all has significance and meaning for our students.”
COVID-19 has thwarted many of the usual off-campus options for the school in recent years, so the planting exercise was a welcomed return to normality.
“For our children it’s been great to get them out and doing activities we’ve done in the past – the kids respond to it really well,” Scott Wilson says.
“It gives them a great understanding about protecting eco-systems, improving waterways and wider biodiversity values. This sort of activity connects to our Enviroschools kaupapa as well as linking to our science curriculum and a general understanding of the living world.”
Scott Wilson says development of the relationships with government agencies and other environmental organisations is also important to the school and its community.
The Manga-o-tama catchment includes numerous peat lakes, with Ngaroto (Wairoto), Ngaroto-iti (Wairoto-iti), Ruatuna and Mangakaware being the better known. A stream/drainage system connects the lakes and meanders it way through farms and wetlands to the point where it enters the Waipa River. There are 38 Fonterra farms within the catchment.
For the past nine years, Living Water has actively worked with farmers, iwi and other stakeholders at five catchments across the country to develop and trial tools and approaches to aid the improvement of improve water quality. The wider Ohaupo peat lakes and Manga-o-Tama catchment – including the farms where the planting took place – are among the Living Water sites where wetland conservation is a focus.