Māori Conservation Foundation Course

Department of Conservation —  22/01/2015

By Melissa Brignall-Theyer, Partnerships Ranger in Napier

Eleven men and women of Ngāti Pāhauwera descent are celebrating after recently graduating from the Māori Conservation Foundation Course.

Students with certificates on graduation day.

Students with certificates on graduation day

Following the Ngāti Pāhauwera Treaty Settlement, DOC committed to enhancing our relationship with Ngāti Pāhauwera. We worked with Ngāti Pāhauwera and The Ministry of Social Development to create an eight-week pilot programme— the Māori Conservation Foundation Course.

The pilot was designed to give Ngāti Pāhauwera descendants the means to develop a sustainable future for themselves and their land.

Students at the top of Maungaharuru range.

At the top of the world

The students spent their time undertaking a mix of classroom and practical learning, with lots of opportunities to connect with the land.

Hans Rook, a former Conservation Officer, spent three weeks teaching the group about whitebait, whales and matuku/bittern. Most of them had never heard of bittern before and were amazed to find some in their own backyard.They are now also excited about finding and protecting local whitebait spawning sites, and will do this with the support of the iwi and DOC.

The students visiting a swamp home to matuku/bittern.

Matuku/bittern country

Pouri Rakete-Stones, a pest management contractor and outdoor educator, spent three weeks challenging the team with bush craft and outdoor confidence skills, pest control, water quality, and species work, including being part of a kiwi health check.

Thanks to this course we now have a much deeper relationship with Ngāti Pāhauwera, and a strong working relationship with Work and Income.

70% of the course’s students now have jobs, including one who has a three month work experience contract with DOC on the Poutiri Ao ō Tāne project.

Students learning about whales.

A deceased whale

The Māori Conservation Foundation Course was an exciting journey for everyone involved, not just the students. It is hoped that this pilot will provide a robust template for future programmes to be owned and implemented by iwi, hapū and whānau, both regionally and nationally.

Stopping for a break during a bush walk.

Having a break during a long bush walk

Sitting at Waipapa-a-Iwi Marae, on the Mohaka River in Hawke’s Bay, and listening to the students talk about their journey during the course, was great, but to witness the transformation in their confidence, and know we had a part to play in it, was amazing.

Video/slideshow from the course: