Kerikeri Kindergarten is thrilled to have been named a finalist in this year's New Zealand Biosecurity Awards for an initiative which teaches pupils to become guardians of the forest.
The kindy is among 27 finalists named from a pool of 70 entries for the awards which recognise biosecurity champions making a difference to protect New Zealand's unique environment from pests and diseases.
Teacher Scott Hunter said the kindy's Ngahere programme involves taking 10 of the oldest children into the bush on private land outside of Kerikeri for a few hours each week.
Youngsters learn how to trap pests like rats and possums, along with other practical skills such as making huts and cooking on a campfire. They also learn about native flora and fauna and problems like kauri dieback.
The programme was established a year ago after a kindy trip to an Enviroschools hui in Whangarei, Hunter said.
Pupils returned from the hui inspired to make a difference, he said.
"It's a great chance for kids to get into nature. We partnered with Waimate North Landcare Trust who also trap in the area, and they provide knowledge and guidance.
"It's preparing them to be kaitiaki of the future – to see themselves as part of nature. They learn about different flora and fauna and how to protect it."
Hunter and two other kindergarten staff – head teacher Joanne Johanson and coordinator Kerry Groome will travel to Parliament in Wellington in November where the winner will be announced.
Head of Biosecurity New Zealand, Penny Nelson, said the awards are a "fantastic opportunity to celebrate some of the exceptional contributions that so many New Zealanders make to safeguard our biosecurity system".
The finalists represent a diverse range of individuals, teams, iwi, schools and community groups, businesses, government agencies and research organisations.
Every entrant deserves recognition and support, she said.
"They are all stepping up to do something to protect and preserve our environment, primary industries and way of life," Nelson said.
"Their magnificent mahi is fundamental in keeping our biosecurity system strong, and every day they are putting in the hard yards to ensure New Zealand continues to have a world-leading biosecurity system."