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Nurturing Young Kaitiaki for Aotearoa’s Waterways

Wed, 4 Dec 2019

Christchurch-based freshwater initiative, Drinkable Rivers, has teamed up with Villa Maria College to develop a kaitiakitanga programme for the restoration and maintenance of the Avon River/Ōtākaro. After months of development, the partnership kicks off this Friday with a familiarisation event for the intermediate and year 9 student body from Villa Maria College at Corfe Reserve where, in 2020, they will be undertaking riparian planting and maintenance of the first 200 metres of the Avon River/Ōtākaro.

Drinkable Rivers sited its first real-time data sensor, Oracle 1, at the headwaters of the Avon River/Ōtākaro in July and has been working to develop strategies for how best to utilise its data to restore this first section of the river. Villa Maria College, which sits just a few steps away from Oracle 1, was a natural partner for the restoration work.

Drinkable Rivers Project Manager Bex De Prospo says: “With our small and nimble team, Drinkable Rivers positions itself to move key levers to effect environmental change. To do this, we seek collaborative partnerships, acknowledging that we can go further together. From the beginning, our conversations with Villa Maria staff indicated that they were really eager to raise engaged environmental awareness and to bring the principles of kaitiakitanga into their wider curriculum, and we can’t wait to help them do it.”

Thomas Newton, Senior Leadership Team member and Director of Religious Studies at Villa Maria College, agrees. “We are committed to engaging the whole school and excited to be working with Drinkable Rivers to develop learning outcomes in mathematics, religious studies, social studies, and science.”

Physical remediation work is just one part of the partnership, says De Prospo. “We are keen to create opportunities for Villa students to develop and practice transferable skills, and are looking forward to involving them in the data interpretation and the wider storytelling work that we’re doing around our waterways. We also acknowledge the increased appetite for activism amongst our young people and we want to provide forums for them to present this collaboration to local government.”

The two organisations will be developing learning outcomes through Term 1 of next year, with active collaborative work commencing in Term 2. This pilot kaitiaki programme is anticipated to create a collection of resources which can be rolled out to other schools in future years. Drinkable Rivers plans to use this programme as an integral part of realising its vision for 100% Drinkable Rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand, starting with a flourishing Avon River/Ōtākaro in 7 year’s time.


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