Growing up in nature

Kurt Sharpe —  08/08/2016

Healthy Nature, Healthy People — the theme for this year’s Conservation Week has got me thinking about my own time spent in nature.

I remember growing up in the shadow of Pureora Forest, an ancient forest where I would wander amongst gigantic, awe-inspiring trees – totara, rimu, matai, miro and kahikatea.

Pureora Forest. Photo Travis Wiens | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Pureora Forest. Photo: Travis Wiens

My weekends were spent fossicking for fossils at Mangapohue. I would clamber over massive boulders to discover the remnants of ancient marine life buried amongst the limestone. It was my very own Jurassic Park.


Fossils. Photo: Karen Gordon

Mangaokewa Reserve was the best place in the whole world for skimming stones. I’d find the flattest, sleekest greywacke stone and send it flying down the stream. 1… 2… 3… bounces at best and then, it was gone!

It annoyed me that my brothers were always much better at it.

Skimming stones. Photo: Chris Potako | CC BY 2.0.

Skimming stones. Photo: Chris Potako

When holidays came around I would always look forward to visiting Pirongia as it meant a chance to explore my maunga, an extinct volcano that seemed to stretch on forever when I was young.

It was our playground, our gym and our weatherman. Whenever the clouds started to gather on the summit we knew that bad weather was on the way.

Mount Pirongia. Photo: itravelNZ | CC BY 2.0.

Mount Pirongia. Photo: itravelNZ

I’ve always known that my experiences in nature from a young age had a huge effect on me. It’s why I do what I do, and it’s why I love spending time in the outdoors.

Research has confirmed my long-held belief that those who connect with nature from a young age are more likely to enjoy the outdoors and want to protect it in the future.

If we don’t help our children to value nature now it sets the stage for the continuing loss of our natural environment in the future. Getting kids to participate in outdoor activities is the most effective way to combat this.

That’s why DOC is encouraging people to get their whānau into the outdoors. Not only is it a chance to connect your children with nature, but there’s also proven physical and mental health benefits for the whole family.

In nature from the beginning.

In nature from the beginning. Photo: Karen Gordon

Conservation Week is the perfect time to get your family to head outdoors. There’s load of activities, competitions and events happening around the country to make it nice and easy for you.

Head to the Conservation Week website and find our how you can take part.

cw-square-bannerConservation Week takes place 10–18 September.

This year is all about encouraging New Zealanders to get on board to help explore, celebrate and protect the unique natural environment here in beautiful Aotearoa.

It’s about getting children out and about in nature—young people connected to nature will more likely enjoy the outdoors and want to protect it.



Kurt Sharpe


Kurt helps to share DOC's work with New Zealanders across our various social media channels. Originally from Waitomo, he's now based in DOC's National Office in Wellington.

4 responses to Growing up in nature


    Love this Kurt! Full of neat childhood memories.


      Thanks Chrissy. I have tonnes of great memories out in nature.


    One of the things I love about growing up in NZ is being surrounded by nature. Its our natural playground and we spent our childhood and teens too for that matter in the bush behind our house and exploring. Nothing has changed really – still love getting out and exploring our “backyard” – just realised it is much bigger than I thought.


      Exactly! I still have that same thrill and sense of adventure when I’m surrounded by nature, I’m just exploring a bit further afield nowadays.