Kaponga is a small South Taranaki settlement just 13 km from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre and the closest settlement to Mount Taranaki. The students have access to many walking tracks locally, but do not have access to off-road cycling opportunities or cycle parks. At school, the only area available to them for cycle and scooter use is the court area. Unfortunately, this is shared by too many students, causing safety issues. The students have also become disengaged as the current area doesn’t offer diversity of gradient, route, surface and ability.
In an effort to add more excitement to the student’s recreational times, principal Shane Downs suggested that the school make their own cycle track around the perimeter of the field. The students embraced this proposal and, together, they began to brainstorm track concepts and design. This coincided with Kaponga Primary becoming an Enviroschool in Term 2,2020. Shane began discussions with Enviroschools facilitator, Esther Ward-Campbell, in the middle of the term as the beginning of the vision mapping process.
Unfortunately, Covid 19 lockdown put this process on hold. However, Shane was able to use this time to make enquiries about sourcing native trees to plant as a shelter belt along the Northern boundary fence. This is a desolate area which cops a lot of icy wind off the mountain during winter. The intention is to create shelter and pleasant aesthetics for the cycle track to meander through. The school hoped to source the trees for free, either through sponsorship or donations by the community.
However, Lockdown stymied this idea and Shane had to come up with a plan B. After emailing several sources, Shane finally hit it lucky with the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) Land Management team. There were thousands of native trees ready to be dispatched to farmers from multiple depots as part of the riparian planting programme. TRC Land management officer, Nicola Wanden, worked with the school to plan how many plants would be required and what species were most suitable for the site. On the 2nd of July 2020, 70 plants were delivered and Esther and Nicola came along to help the students and staff with their planting bee.
There are wider plans to incorporate fruit trees, veggie gardens, flower gardens, further tree planting, art, signage and sculptures as part of this student-led and designed project – all part of the wider vision towards a sustainable school environment.
We look forward to following their progress as Kaponga School work towards completing their cycle track. Everyone is excited and can’t wait to be able to use the new track!
Banner image: Everyone helps out planting along the fence line – the first stage of the cycle track construction.