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By Amy Brasch, Partnerships Ranger, Wellington.

Hundreds flocked to Wellington’s Waitangi Park last month for the first annual Pest-Fest. It was a great display of various conservation partnerships in the Wellington area coming together for a common cause—educating the public on pests in New Zealand.

A young girl meets a Wellington gecko up close.

Meeting a Wellington gecko at Pest-Fest

The event included a range of activities for the public, such as weed swapping, animal pest trapping demonstrations, kids’ crafts, information on current conservation research, tracking tunnel tutorials, kiwi conservation tips, advice on how to design bird-friendly gardens and much more.

A ranger with a working predator trap at Pest-Fest.

Ranger Lisa Calpcott setting a trap

Despite being the first Pest-Fest ever held in Wellington, a wide range of organisations attended, including the Department of Conservation, Wellington City Council, Victoria University of Wellington, Zealandia, Forest and Bird, WWF and many others. It was a fantastic example of organisations coming together for conservation.

Pest-Fest was a fun way to learn about New Zealand pests. There were a lot of hands-on activities and demonstrations that really highlighted the teamwork between the various local agencies. The event ran alongside the Wellington Phoenix Community Day and the Farmer’s Market, which attracted a diverse audience.

A young girl and Rimu the kiwi point to a trap and dead rats.

Rimu the kiwi and his friend inspect a trap

It was great to see all the different organisations in one place complementing each other and it was great to be engaging with the community on such an important conservation issue and teaching people how to monitor pests in their own backyard.

Celia Wade-Brown looking at a Wellington gecko.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown learns more about the Wellington gecko

It’s Māori Language Week—Te Wiki o Te Reo Māoria perfect time for us to enjoy a kōrero about te reo with Joe Harawira, DOC’s Kaihautu – Te Putahitanga (Manager- Strategic Partnerships).

Language is central to the cultural identity of both the individual and the community to which he or she belongs. Not only does a language express the realities of a particular group, but it also marks one’s membership of that group, both from within (since the language is shared) and without (since it highlights one’s differences).

Joe Harawira at the Maori Market in 2011.

Joe story telling at the Māori Market in 2011

If a language is lost, the cultural identity of the group is considerably weakened, which in turn alters the very nature of the society of which that group is part. In light of this, it may be considered important to retain and promote the Māori language, in order, amongst other things, to develop a diverse and harmonious society.

Ko Te Reo Te Hā Te Mauri O Te Māoritanga.
Language is the very life-breath of being Māori.

Te Taura Whiri I te reo
Māori Language Commission

In 1987, the Māori language became an official language of New Zealand along with English and, more recently, Sign Language (2006).

The Māori language is a very important part of who I am as New Zealander. Having travelled the world over the past 35 years as a storyteller, I am constantly asked by the audiences I perform to, to tell the story in my language, the Māori language.

All languages have a wairua, a spirit. The Māori language seems to be one of those languages that people can hear, can feel, can know, can understand. Even though the language is foreign to the ear, and the people I met on my travels are first time listeners of the Māori language.

I first of all tell the story in te reo Māori and then retell it in English, with a translator from that country retelling it in German, Dutch, French, Hungarian and so on. In fact, when in Paris last January, I told a story in te reo Māori and a young Māori university student who had been through the Kura Kaupapa Māori immersion schooling system translated straight into French for the children gathered. It was a fantastic experience.

Joe Harawira storytelling in the Outback (Kakadu).

Joe storytelling in the Outback (Kakadu)

The Māori language has a spirit of its own and in order to maintain the integrity of the spirit, correct pronunciation is required. To mispronounce a word is to alter its story and its spirit. All names, including place names, have a whakapapa, a story.

An example of people altering words is the use of Paraparam for Paraparaumu. I am not sure what the story is behind Paraparam, other than people having trouble pronouncing the word or just plain laziness. I could be facetious and say that the story behind Paraparam is that it is about someone pushing a pram down the street. Paraparaumu alludes to the plentiful food resources of the area, evident in the leftovers found in the food pits. The literal translation of parapara is scraps and umu is cooking pit or oven.

I make this point, more so, to share the importance of maintaining the integrity and the spirit of the language through correct pronunciation, as the correct pronunciation of Māori names and words has a bearing on its meaning. I wish not to labour the point of the importance of language to a culture, other than to say that we all are connected, physically, spiritually and mentally to the natural world, in our own ways, through our deep sense of manaaki (caring) and tiaki (nurturing).

The Māori language is a simple language. It is made up of vowels and consonants. An understanding of the pronunciation of those vowels and consonants will go a long way to giving the language the mana that it deserves. I congratulate those that see value in learning the Māori language as an addition to the tool and skill sets that you already possess.

Kia kaha.

Sorrel Hoskin, from DOC’s Taranaki Area Office, writes about St Joseph’s Primary School’s recent visit to Egmont National Park to learn about the work being done to protect the endangered whio/blue duck:

Combine 90 excited primary school kids, two passionate DOC rangers, and an enthusiastic regional council educator. Top up with fun facts about whio and mix well. Result? A slightly chaotic but fun filled day of learning about one of our special species, the whio.

Students line up outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre.

The group outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre – the mountain is hidden behind the clouds

Taranaki school students recently spent a day out in Egmont National Park. As it was Whio Awareness Month DOC staff took the opportunity to share some of the work they do on the mountain to help protect the endangered duck.

Biodiversity ranger Emily King usually works with whio and kiwi – so a gaggle of chattering five year olds was a whole new experience, but she soon had them captivated with cool facts about our only white water swimming duck.

Ranger shows students how the stoat trap works.

Ranger Mike demonstrates the stoat trap – SNAP!

There are around 60 whio living in Egmont National Park and ongoing monitoring and pest control is key to their survival and population growth. DOC carries out this work with support from the Central North Island Conservation Charitable Blue Duck Trust and East Taranaki Environment Trust. The good news is the population is growing.

Whio Awareness Month was celebrated throughout New Zealand to recognise the “Whio Forever” project, a Genesis Energy/DOC partnership helping implement a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat. The idea is to double the number of fully secure breeding sites throughout the country and boost pest control to enhance productivity and survival.

A student, 5 year old Asten, holds a stuffed stoat.

Five year old Asten gets close to a stoat

Community relations ranger Mike Tapp set up a game of predator hide and seek along a bush walk. Kids had fun finding the stoat, rat, cat, weasel and ferret hidden amongst the undergrowth, and learnt about some of the key predators of the whio and other native birds.

Taranaki Regional Council’s Kevin Archer took groups of children for a walk through some of the forest – pointing out where whio and other native birds might like to live.

While feedback from the students was mixed and often amusing (who knew that polar bears were a major predator of whio?) some of the key messages were getting through.

A whio swimming in the stream.

A whio swimming in the stream.

Five year old Jordon’s favorite part of the day was seeing Ranger Mike set off the predator trap to squash the animals that attack whio, “The trap went SNAP!”

St Joseph’s teacher Jenna Sullivan said the day had been a great success and showed how a school, DOC and the regional council can come together to create a real hands on learning experience for the kids.