Girls to get water station dolphin on wharf

By Peter de Graaf

A project by two Bay of Islands schoolgirls to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the sea is set to become a permanent feature of the Paihia waterfront.

Opua School pupils Rebecca Gmuer Hornell, 12, and Lisa Mather, 13, designed a water station in the form of a dolphin to encourage people to switch to reusable water bottles.

"The idea was to put it on Paihia wharf to stop people purchasing plastic bottles so they wouldn't keep ending up on our beaches," Lisa said.

The project was inspired by environmental lessons, particularly a film about seabirds dying after eating plastic in a vast area of floating waste in the north Pacific called the plastic vortex. School clean-ups of local beaches showed the girls plastic was also a problem on Bay of Islands beaches.

The water dispenser is made from a fibreglass dolphin donated by Kevin Smith, of Opua, while Reece Hesketh did the plumbing and Opua Engineering made the stands. At the press of a button the dolphin squirts just enough filtered water from its mouth to fill a bottle.

Lisa said the Opua business community had donated and fitted almost everything.

"The only thing we had to buy was the pipes," she said.

Rebecca said the idea was originally mooted by a teacher but took on a life of its own after they picked it up. They made presentations to Bay of Islands Rotary and Focus Paihia, and tried to get permission to install it on Paihia Wharf.

That turned out to be a lesson on dealing with the adult world where phone calls, emails and letters go unanswered. In the end, with both girls due to start at high school this year, they decided to install their prototype in the school playground instead.

However, their presentation to the town beautification group Focus Paihia was so convincing the project is now set to go ahead as originally envisaged.

At its last meeting the group voted to allocate more than $3000 to a dolphin water station made of stone which will be a permanent feature of the waterfront.

Chairman Grant Harnish said it was a lot of money but the group "really, really liked it" and the girls' pitch was convincing and professional.

Mr Harnish hoped the water station would encourage other young people to get involved in similar projects.

- Northern Advocate

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