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Youth Conservation Project Gains Momentum

One year on from the launch of a youth led conservation site in Balmoral Forest, work continues to restore native flora to the area and create a space where Hurunui youth can exercise guardianship of the land.

The Hurunui Youth Kaitiakitanga Project* was launched in May last year and has been supported by the Hurunui District Council and Environment Canterbury.

The two councils assisted in setting up the project, assigning a specific site (a three hectare block in Balmoral, part of the Morrison’s Road Stock Resting Reserve) to the care of the young people and providing conservation based education to get them started.

One year on from the site-opening, most of the invasive weeds have been cleared and the first round of native planting was carried out on the 28th of May. Although the number of participants was limited to 10 people, to remain within the COVID-19 Level 2 guidelines, 200 native plants went in the ground that Thursday morning.

The Hurunui District Council’s Youth Development Officer Ward Sherman said “it was fantastic day of planting. The youth that were helping were students from Hurunui College. Their Science teacher, Tim Kelly, is currently teaching Agriculture and Horticultural Science. They’re interested in landscaping, habitat preservation and the establishment of plants, so we were thrilled to have them,” Sherman said.

Roderick Murchison, Youth Councillor and Year 12 Student at Hurunui College, thanked the councils for their support and said “it’s great to be able to restore an area that was just covered in weeds and other introduced plants and give it new life. I look forward to continuing the restoration and seeing how the area will look in future years as a part of our community," he said.

Bradley White, Youth Councillor and Year 13 Student at Hurunui College, said the site is going to be an asset for years to come. “Being able to take part in the first stages of one of the Hurunui Youth Council’s biggest projects is amazing. As a Youth Councillor, it's something I've been waiting for. Seeing this plan come to life really highlights what youth can achieve.”

Education on the day focused on establishing plant communities native to the area. Environment Canterbury’s Marco Cataloni, Northern Zone Delivery Lead, illustrated the importance of preserving local plant genetics.

“We brought 16 species of plants with us, all natives, with the seeds having been collected in the Hurunui district. That means they are all indigenous to the area,” he said. “That’s important, because plants from elsewhere could be a slightly different species, better suited to another area and dilutive to established genetics”.

Cataloni has been involved with the project since its beginning, with Environment Canterbury conducting the weed control, site preparation and providing the plants, weed matting and plant protection for this first round of work.

The intention was that Environment Canterbury would initialise the project and provide education on how to maintain the site, to support the youth in their kaitiakitanga goals.

“There’s plenty of scope left at the site for more plants and I have great faith in the ability of the young people involved to take the ball and run with it,” Cataloni said. “There will be ongoing fundraising required to keep enhancing that area, but Hurunui Youth have taken up the challenge.”

“I think it’s a good opportunity for young people that live in the community, to learn what was there once upon a time and what that land used to look like. Young people wanting to take guardianship of a place is a fantastic thing.”

*The Hurunui Youth Kaitiakitanga Project began when the Hurunui Youth Council and Hurunui Youth Group expressed a wish to lead their own conservation project. It was made possible in the beginning by Ministry of Youth Development Funding that supports youth leadership, mentoring, volunteering and wellbeing. Anyone is welcome to get involved and our youth are inviting any interested groups or individuals to join in or show their support.

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