Wairarapa school nurtures muddy paddock into thriving wetland
Kahutara School is fostering students’ connection with te taiao (nature) by developing a wetland to encourage biodiversity back to the local area, following the school’s participation in the Whitebait Connection programme.
The programme was led by Mountains to Sea Wellington and supported by Greater Wellington Regional Council. Greater Wellington biodiversity advisor, Micheline Evans says, “Since the land donation by the grandparents of a former student in 2017, the restoration work has been integrated into the school’s curriculum with students learning about the wetland and getting involved in seasonal planting and monitoring.
“Three years on, students are already witnessing positive changes in their local wetland – with flourishing locally sourced kōwhai, kahikatea, harakeke, cabbage trees, black beech and frequent visits from kotare, ducks and the occasional white heron.”
The message is clear that educational and environmental projects provide practical opportunities to support the student’s wellbeing and ultimately set our region up for success by leaving a healthy and thriving biodiversity legacy.
Kahutara School deputy principal, Hamish McRae says, “It’s the small things like our students all picking a tree to research and name that build their sense of connection and belonging with the area.
“Some of these children will grow up to become farmers, so it’s awesome they can begin to appreciate the value of these activities.
“We can see children making connections between the conservation work they are already doing on their family farms, like trapping and planting.”
Mr McRae says Kahutara School couldn’t have transformed this once-was muddy paddock into a thriving ecosystem without the further support of numerous community groups, such as South Wairarapa Rotary and Featherston’s Own Charitable Trust.
The school has also used the programme to reel in a range of experts to inspire the students. A recent visit from Scottish dragonfly experts, Ruary MacKenzie Dodds and Kari de Koenigswarter, helped students discover that the wetland is a hotspot of baron dragonfly larvae.
And the school’s good work doesn’t stop there, with a community track around the wetland in the final stages and future plans to include QR codes on the trees for visitors to learn about species’ history.
Greater Wellington councillor, Adrienne Staples says, “The young generation is paving the way for a greener, healthier and a more resilient future through kaupapa like these.
“We hope Kahutara School inspires others to start their own projects, whether it’s getting involved in sustainable school programmes, planting, trapping or looking after a wetland.”
This ongoing educational project is one of many initiatives that Greater Wellington has supported as part of the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Project, a collaboration between Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitāne o Wairarapa, Greater Wellington, the Department of Conservation and South Wairarapa District Council.