For two days during February, 15 young environmental leaders participated in a wānanga which introduced them to concepts of whakapapa, kaitiakitanga, mauri and manaakitanga at Te Kōawa Tūroa o Takitimu.

The programme was the first of its kind for these students and was supported by a local team which included Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka, Ngāi Tahu whānau, Enviroschools Foundation, Environment Southland Environmental education team, Department of Conservation and Resource Teachers of Māori.

The students were selected as representatives of the three southland secondary Enviroschools.

Following the mihi whakatau we tuned into the mahi by sharing a small taonga we had each brought with us, placing them on a large map sharing the story. Later in the afternoon we shared kōrero with Victor and Dave about Te Ao Māori, Te Kōawa Tūroa, whakapapa, kaitiakitanga, mauri and manaakitanga.

Following this we went on a hīkoi up the valley sharing more kōrero and thinking about a scoring we would give to represent its mauri. This was a challenging exercise which was used to encourage some critical thinking about different environments and impacts they face and the roles we can all play to nurture them.

In the evening the students discovered more about whakapapa with Lydia who provided a great take-home resource for them as well.

On the morning of the second day we all ventured back up the valley where our mahi was to build a seat that overlooked the second pond and Takitimu. Everyone played a part in locating the site as well as building and decorating the seat. There was a lot of fun and sharing together as gabion baskets were built, sleepers were carried in, rocks were gathered, harakeke flowers were made, gorse was cleared, cairns were built and the seat was levelled and tested by all 15 students having to fit on it at one time.

Each school had also brought some tī kāuka as koha so these were planted in the area behind the seat.

During this time we also discussed the importance of naming the seat. The students suggested the name should include the fact that the seat was built by young people for a place for young and old to sit and reflect, as well as observing the reflection of Takitimu in the pond. The name will be left for the rūnaka to develop in te reo further.

This was a wonderful wānanga for all who attended and helped in so many ways and the partnerships and cooperation made the learning all the more real for us all. Nā Mark Oster.

The Enviroschools group.

The Enviroschools group.

The seat that was made by the rangatahi.

The seat that was made by the rangatahi.