Biodiversity the Focus of New Programme at WIO

by Bree Arnott

Whenua Iti Outdoors has designed the new ‘Predator Control & Conservation’ programme for secondary students to teach the importance of biodiversity management in which students will get to participate in practical, field-based community conservation projects. 

The first Predator Control & Conservation Programme is set to kick off in Term 3 as part of the funded Trades Academy programmes local high school students are able to access in Years 12 & 13. These programmes include assessments, the credits achieved along the way contribute to students NCEA school qualifications.  They also come out of the programme with a set of practical skills that can be applied to future work & life, alongside a deeper understanding of biodiversity management practices. 

The beauty of this course according to Mark Bruce-Miller, General Manager of WIO, is in the positive contribution that students will be making to local conservation projects. “We’re thrilled to be able to deliver a programme that can support the incredible work that is being undertaken locally by volunteer conservation groups. Often there aren’t enough volunteers for these projects to be as effective as our region needs them to be. Our students will be learning practical skills, developing their knowledge of biodiversity management, gaining their necessary NCEA credits all while giving back to their community by being part of these great conservation efforts.” 

This new programme comes at a time when Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government has just announced a significant $1.1b cash boost as part of Budget 2020 to create 11,000 “green” jobs, including in regional environmental projects, biosecurity and pest control roles. Providing an educational pathway into these jobs makes perfect sense for Whenua Iti Outdoors, and aligns with Our Kaupapa to instil and practice kaitiakitanga – the guardianship of our land and people. 

Department of Conservation Communities Manager for Predator Free 2050, Jo Macpherson, congratulates Whenua Iti Outdoors on taking the initiative and delivering this programme. “New Zealand needs young people with solid practical skills to achieve the goal of becoming Predator Free by 2050. Training programmes such as this will open many doors for the students, and connect them to various and exciting opportunities working in nature.”

What are some of the conservation projects that WIO will work with? 

The programme is still being finalised, and will greatly depend on where the need exists at the time the first students arrive in early August. “We are looking to work alongside many existing community conservation groups and national organisations such as the Tasman Environment Trust, Tasman Bay Guardians, Takaka Hill Biodiversity Group Trust, Landcare Trust and the Department of Conservation,” says Mark. 

One of the projects that is set to potentially benefit from students’ involvement in monitoring their trapping network is the Takaka Hill Biodiversity Group Trust, a community of landowners and industries protecting and enhancing Takaka Hill biodiversity by creating healthy ecosystems for native species. Charmaine Petereit, the Trust’s Project Manager says that working with Whenua Iti is a win-win for students and the environment. “Post COVID-19, the new fragility of work suggests that those entering employment from now on need flexibility, and agility – a second string to their career-bow, to weather the likely economic and climate-change crises on their way. Conservation skills are added credentials which can let you shift immediately across to projects of real worth making your future safer and more assured.”  

This is not the only programme where students from Whenua Iti Outdoors have had the opportunity to learn alongside local conservation efforts. “We like to look for ways in which students can learn from and contribute to community conservation projects. It so beneficial both to the students and our wider community. When you feel good about what you’re doing, you create a hugely positive learning environment, and learning is amplified,” says Linda Heath, Instructor at Whenua Iti.   

For further information on this programme view our webpage: Predator Control & Conservation or contact us at [email protected] 

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