Rotorua rangatahi have left Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey "proud, excited and encouraged" with their efforts to rid Rotorua lakes of catfish.
Yesterday children from Lynmore, Rotokawa, Mokoia Intermediate, St Mary's and Te Rangihakahaka were at Te Weta Bay on Lake Rotoiti to share their anti-catfish skills with Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey.
Coffey, with his baby son Tūtānekai Smith-Coffey, got up close and personal with the "Catfish Killas".
Catfish Killas is led by Te Arawa Lakes Trust and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council but schools, boaties and visitors had all helped set and clear nets as well as educate others on how the pests spread.
Coffey was blown away by the children and said he hoped it would encourage more whānau to get involved.
"I was extremely proud, excited and encouraged to see the passion of these rangatahi, in doing their part for the kaitiakitanga of our local lakes and waterways."
Nearly 35,000 catfish were caught in Lake Rotoiti in the year to June 2018 which is more than 10 times the number of the year before.
Of these, 7000 were caught in a single night in Te Weta Bay.
"We all have a role in collectively addressing the impact of catfish on our region," Coffey said.
The environmentalist programme is co-ordinated by William Anaru of Te Arawa Lakes Trust and which aims to bolster koura numbers as part of its Wai Ora initiative.
He said the children led the afternoon, and their knowledge and passion was shone through.
Catfish feed on koura (freshwater crayfish) and Anaru said the pests were "a real risk to our native species".
He was impressed with the number of school children who were stepping up to educate adults, "and they do a great job".
In the year that William had been working in the catfish role, the number of volunteers had grown significantly.
"There is no benefit to anyone in having them here. They're not even good for eating."