A Tairawhiti Enviroschools project to restore the upper section of Waikanae Stream has entered the planting phase, with more than 1300 native plants donated for improvement of the waterway.
The Wai Restoration Programme began earlier in the year with construction of a 270m fence along the edge of the stream in the vicinity of Gisborne Airport.
Students, aged between 13 and 18, from Gisborne Girl’s High, Gisborne Boy’s High, Campion College and Te Karaka Area School are being taught how to build fences, plant native trees and care for the environment.
The aim of the Wai Restoration Programme is to teach the practicality and importance of separating stock from waterways, as well as exploring the opportunity to restore the environment around streams.
Trisha Te Oka, Turanga Ararau dual pathways co-ordinator, has seen a lot of enthusiasm among schools and students wanting to take part.
“We’re working alongside the schools and it’s an excellent opportunity for students to gain credits and learn about the environment, and learn about replenishing and looking after it for the future — for their children.
“It’s going to take years for the benefits of this work to take effect, but it will benefit their children and they’re really engaged in that.”
Reported sightings of the bittern (matuku), a wetland bird that is classified as rarer than the Kiwi, had added fuel to the importance of protecting and restoring this stretch of stream.
Tairawhiti Enviroschools facilitator Kirsty Gaddum is optimistic about the future of the stream and the wildlife that surrounds it.
“The kaupapa of Wai Restoration is all about engaging young people and local communities in the restoration of waterways and biodiversity.
“This project is about taking Waikanae Stream from being a stream that has no life, to creating habitat and biodiversity for species in the wetland area.
“The whole aim in bringing the students in is to get them empowered because if they’re empowered they will believe they are really going to make a change.”
Ms Gaddum said the students were shown the importance of testing the water and had identified the low quality.
“Straight away, the students were on board and wanting to get out there and start fencing off the stream so they could plant along the banks to increase the water quality and biodiversity.”
Gisborne Airport supplied materials for construction of the fence and native plants, along with plants donated from Women’s Native Tree Trust.
Schools had established their own nurseries to propagate and donate native plants to future Wai Restoration projects.
The initiative is led by Tairawhiti Enviroschools, with the support of Turanga Ararau, Gisborne Airport, Eastland Port, Te Kuri A Tuatai Marae, and careers teachers at the high schools.
Enviroschools is a nationwide programme facilitated here through Gisborne District Council.
There are 24 schools across the region in the Enviroschools programme and actively involved in engaging students to create healthy sustainable communities.
Tairawhiti Enviroschools is supported by Gisborne District Council, Department of Conservation, JN Williams Memorial Trust, HB Williams Turanga Trust and Eastland Port.
Story and video: The Gisborne Herald