There's a critical shortage of young Northlanders with qualification and knowledge in environment management compared with other parts of the country, advocates on freshwater quality say.
Millan Ruka and Juliane Chetham's comments follow a decision by NorthTec to start a New Zealand Certificate in Study and Career Preparation Level 4 programme with a new environmental strand, available fees-free from next month.
The course is designed for people wanting to take the first step to a career in conservation and environmental management, and is also suitable for those who generally want to learn more about the ecology of the natural environment of New Zealand.
The programme will be available in semester two and will start on July 20 at NorthTec's Raumanga campus.
Ruka champions the need to improve freshwater quality and started Environment River Patrol Aotearoa in 2010, spurred by the poor quality of water around his whānau land at Kokopu.
"There's a huge need for young people to be educated in environment management so they know the Resource Management Act. The course is lower-level but people have got to start somewhere.
"There should also be an emphasis to recruit Māori. I think the reason there's a shortage of people in this field is because there's no treaty settlement up here, unlike in other parts of the country," said the NZ Order of Merit recipient.
Chetham, manager for Patuharakeke's resource management unit, said the need to build more capacity and capability into the area of environmental management was needed now than ever before.
"We also need to build more Māori and kaitiaki-type courses because there are so many coastal and water issues and there's a lot of young people who want to engage in those but they lack knowledge on how the legislation works."
NorthTec pathway manager for community and environment John Stansfield said the new programme at level 4 was broad enough for it to be used as a stepping stone to where each student wanted to get into in those fields.
"The level 4 programme also presents an opportunity for students to have a 'no cost' go at studying. To see if this is something you would be interested in without committing to study fees, and then move up to NorthTec's New Zealand Diploma in Environmental Management (level 5), which then can lead on to the degree programme."
Entry criteria for this programme is NCEA Level 2 or equivalent. For applicants over 20, no academic qualifications are required, but learners must provide evidence of their ability to study at this level.