By Trish Irvine, Community Relations Ranger, Auckland
Eleven students from the ‘Gifted and Talented’ programme at James Cook High School in South Auckland recently came to a ‘Guardians of Maungauika Workshop’ hosted by Pou Tairangahau Nick Turoa and Partnerships Rangers from the Tamaki Makaurau Office.
Following introductions and morning tea, Nick (a Historic Ranger in a previous life) led our group on a tour of the maunga including the Barracks building at North Head (a former defence fort, set up in the 1800s to defend Auckland from a feared Russian attack). The students all seemed to delight in exploring the myriad of caves, underground rooms and tunnels of the barracks and former pā.
As we clambered out of a long dark tunnel and down the steps to the coastal track, the sea spray from the high tide and abating storm licked our faces. As we raised our eyes, a pair of maki or orca coming around North Head suddenly emerged from the waves near us on the shore. We could not have timed it any better. We alerted a colleague up in the Field Base who advised that we should call 0800 SEE ORCA as soon as possible with sightings. Dedicated orca researcher—Ingrid Visser—loves to hear about them as early as possible in the hope of getting out on the water for her ongoing research.
Stories about the value of the sea for kaimoana and a coastal cave for waka transport were also shared as we continued our walk around the base of the maunga. This highlighted to these future leaders why we all need to treasure our marine environment and encouraged them to take action like beach clean-ups and preventing litter and waste getting into the sea.
At lunchtime we took part in an afternoon workshop with the group that was designed to help DOC learn more about what makes conservation tick for young people, how to better engage with youth in their communities and what support DOC could provide for their conservation efforts. In small groups the students shared their ideas and expressed some valuable insights.
Based on their own feelings, opinions and experiences, the group came up with a range of ideas that they believed would help to develop their peers’ interest in conservation—ranging from making conservation fun and ‘easier’ to do with groups of friends, to including incentives such as food, competitions, prizes, and music.
We are looking forward to meeting these students again and supporting their efforts to engage with conservation on a stronger footing and in particular, assisting their involvement in the restoration of a wetland habitat in the Wattle Farm Reserve near the school.