Replacing the classroom with the great outdoors to teach schoolchildren about protecting the environment has proven to be a huge success.
A group of 150 schoolkids descended upon the Te Ara ō Wairākei reserve in Pāpāmoa to learn about its history, importance to the region and to help restore it to its former glory.
"We've got Golden Sands and Tahatai Coast Schools coming down today to have a look at the Te Ara ō Wairākei landscape plan, the work being done by council in collaboration with Ngā Pōtiki around beautifying and enhancing the quality of the stormwater reserve," said Radleigh Cairns, Environmental Programme Leader at Tauranga City Council.
Ngā Pōtiki kaumātua Colin Reeder said the area has always held cultural significance.
"This was a very important resource in the last century and previous centuries for Māori but over the years it's been degraded," he said. "I'd even go one stage further and say it's probably been abused in many ways."
"What we're trying to do is generate a lot of interest in future generations."
The plan is to generate that interest in the home.
"Kids are great advocates for going back to their parents, talking about what they've seen that day, what they've done," Cairns said.
"We've done a whole load of planting, all the way down the Wairākei, about 15 kilometres' worth. They'll be doing some of that to help improve the quality of the water by creating shade and reducing temperatures.
"They'll be looking at some of the wildlife and native species that are in the Wairākei. Things like tuna, invertebrates and insects that bird life and fish life eat. They'll be hearing some history from Ngā Pōtiki around their connection to Te Ara ō Wairākei and the surrounding hills, as well as looking at some of the things that can reduce predators … that's your rats, stoats, that kind of thing."
Learning about the reserve's tuna, or eels, was the real highlight, according to Ayana Burgess from Tahatai Coast School.
"We've done the stormwater testing, and we're learning about eels right now. It's quite interesting. They're quite funny. They keep on trying to jump out of the boxes," she said.
Fellow Tahatai Coast pupil Tiger O'Reily couldn't pick a favourite.
"Probably the eels … or the water boatmen ... actually, probably the shrimps in the sample jar," he said.
One thing is clear though, the future of the Te Ara ō Wairākei stormwater reserve looks to be in safe hands.
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