News and Events

A Chance to Pause and Celebrate – marking 21 years of Enviroschools in Otago/Ōtākou

August 9, 2023

2023 marks 21 years of Enviroschools in Ōtākou. It started with small seeds. Waitati Primary School, north of Ōtepoti/Dunedin, and Glenorchy Primary School, west of Queenstown, became pilot Enviroschools. Both schools continue to be deeply committed to the Enviroschools Kaupapa today. Dame Sukhi Turner, then Dunedin Mayor, became a trustee on The Enviroschools Foundation in 2002. Ōpoho, Karitāne and Portobello schools joined Enviroschools shortly after and all three of these schools to this day continue to do amazing mahi creating sustainable and resilient schools and communities.

From these small beginnings, Enviroschools now supports 101 Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres  and schools across Ōtākou. This encompasses over 24,000 tamariki and students.

East Taieri School share their sustainable approaches.

Tanya McLean, the first Enviroschools facilitator in Otago region cuts the cake with help from current enviro-leaders from Waitati School.








Enviroschools Facilitators

Heidi Mardon, Chief Executive of Toimata Foundation, checks her quiz answers with the next generation of leaders.

Tania McLean became the first Enviroschools facilitator in this rohe in 2003. Tania continues to be a strong supporter of Enviroschools and integrating sustainability into her teaching at Musselburgh school. Jenny Neilson became a facilitator in 2007, going on to become the first regional coordinator, and was pivotal in introducing Enviroschools in Ōtākou. Jenny set a really strong foundation for Enviroschools in the region, supporting schools to set ambitious goals and integrate sustainability in all aspects of the school life.

We have been so lucky to have had such an incredible array of very talented, passionate, and knowledgeable facilitators across the region over the years. And currently have a team of 10 facilitators working across Ōtākou.  Many previous facilitators are still in the region, working in related fields and continue to be fantastic supporters and allies.

Enviroschools funding and support

Funding and support: Wānaka students getting in a closer look at Bullock Creek.

Enviroschools has great funding support across the Ōtākou region. Dunedin City Council (DCC) has funded Enviroschools since 2004. This included funding for both the facilitator and regional coordinator roles. In 2007 Queenstown Lakes District Council agreed to fund Simon Williams to facilitate Enviroschools. This was contracted through  Wānaka Wastebusters; a relationship that continues to this day.  Clutha District Council (CDC) and Central Otago District Council (CODC), through Central Otago REAP, started to fund facilitators in 2009.

In 2016 the Otago Regional Council agreed to fund the Regional Coordinator role which saw a big change in the way Enviroschools could be supported across Otago. In 2018 Waitaki District Council came on board to fund a facilitator in the district.

In Otago the facilitators continue to be employed by the City and District councils and in the case of QLDC and CODC contract the facilitation role to Wānaka Wastebusters and Central Otago REAP. Having the facilitation network across the councils and two community groups adds a lot of depth and richness to the support that can be offered to schools and centres as facilitators can leverage off the resources and talents of the people within all of these organisations.

Enviroschools hui

2003 saw the first Ōtākou Regional Enviroschools hui for students and the first teacher hui was held in 2005. Hui bring students and teachers together – an opportunity to extend learning, celebrate action and support teachers to put a sustainability lens on their work. Students and teachers often comment on how wonderful it is to meet people from other schools who have similar interests, questions, or areas of concern for te taiao and the future.

Enviroschools hui: Focused on natural building design.

Hui topics in Ōtākou have covered all aspects of the Enviroschools kaupapa. Some of the more unusual things that have happened in hui include;

  • a tour of the inner workings of Clyde Dam
  • a tour of Victoria Flats Landfill (Queenstown)
  • turning the stormwater green in Oamaru
  • learning about the link between Albatross and disappearing guns
  • earth building techniques
  • lots of learning about looking after wai and whenua, learning to propagate native plants, exploring energy, becoming more conscious consumers, empowering young people to be change makers and leaders and imaging what a peaceful, healthy and sustainable world looks like and pathways to get there.

One of the things we came to realise as we reflected on the number of hui and the range of hui topics we cover, is how much Enviroschools contributes to the professional development and learning of teachers in this region.

To pause, as we have, and reflect on this rich and complex evolution of Ōtākou Enviroschools has allowed us to honour this history and acknowledge the people who have contributed to this growth. It has also allowed current Enviroschools students to celebrate their many projects, practices, and actions. By sharing their stories, they have raised an even greater awareness of sustainability issues in their communities and made connections with each other. They are joining the dots – not only with building their knowledge, but geographically with the impact they are having and most importantly, the communities that they are contributing to.

“It was a heart-warming event involving excited, action-focused young people, expert community environmental groups and deeply committed partner organisations – all working together for the environment,” said Heidi Mardon, CE of Toimata Foundation of the 21 years Enviroschools celebration.

Intergenerational sharing and learning. Considering local action.

“We love your mahi Enviroschools Otago, and all the excellent ways we get to cross pollinate and share together” –  OCC – Otago Catchment Community Inc

You can read The Otago Daily Times article about the celebration here. 2023_ES_ Otago_21 years_Otago Daily Times editorial