Empowered Enviroschools students share the aroha and kaupapa with their communities

| By Lucianne White, Enviroschools Otago

Empowered students and sustainable communities are two of the guiding principles of the Enviroschools programme kaupapa and on Sunday May 7th students from Waitaki Boys and Girls High Schools showed how these principles can inspire and be translated into powerful action.

The seating and walkways are part of the plan to provide access to this regenerating native forest.

In October 2020 Lake Ōhau Alpine Village was changed forever by a wildfire that destroyed 44 homes and 5000 hectares of vegetation. Waitaki Girls Enviro-club students felt deeply moved by the impact of this event on one of their local communities and decided they wanted to contribute to recovery.

The pandemic challenges for schools over 2021 and 2022 meant that bringing this vision to fruition was delayed until 2023. At a combined Waitaki Boys and Girls Enviroschools senior student hui, the students collectively decided this was one of their priority actions for the year to achieve together.

The Student Volunteer Army from Canterbury University contributed to the community planting day.

With a personalised invitation from Ōhau Community Trust members to a planting day, 17 students headed up to Ōhau Village for an overnight stay. This couldn’t have happened without the support from their Enviro lead teachers, facilitator and parents, and a contribution from the Enviroschools Ecological Restoration fund. Students spent the day planting out in Avoca Forest to help regenerate the area around Lake Middleton, (previously populated with pine species), into a native forest. The plan includes walkways and seating for current and future generations to enjoy.

It was not only current enviro-students taking action to contribute to communities and sustainability for their future. Joining them for planting were members of the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) from Canterbury University, two of whom are ex-Waitaki students.

Tilly King and friend are great role models for younger rangatahi.

“Our team had just been talking about how great it was to have enviro-students working alongside groups like SVA, showing the link between passion and action that the Enviroschools programme inspires and opportunities for taking action for change once they’ve left their Enviroschools. And what was completely magical was we banged straight into Tilly King, the 2021 Waitaki Girls Enviroclub leader. She is like a living, breathing link of how this incredible kaupapa gets carried forward through life after school.” –  Lucianne White, Enviroschools Waitaki facilitator.

Tilly recently featured in an article on the Enviroschools website about empowered Waitaki rangatahi rising to the challenge of taking action with creative thinking, innovation, leadership and vision, both in school and out there in their communities:

Combined efforts from Waitaki Enviro-students and teachers, the Student Volunteer Army and community volunteers saw 1083 natives planted. This planting was also to acknowledge and thank the firefighters who fought the 2020 wildfire.

Ōhau Community Trust chairperson, Viv Smith-Campbell, said was this was “a huge boost to the restoration of this area”.


Banner image: working together to help the forest regenerate.