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New Internship Empowers Next Generation Of Conservation Guardians Through Collaboration And Partnership

L-R: Student interns for Wairarapa Moana, Jimmy Barnes and Leonie Edwards, with Sarah-Jane Jensen, Biodiversity Advisor – Wairarapa Moana, and Callum Taylor (student intern), planting at Te Pouaruhe. Photo/Supplied

UCOL ākonga (students) are rolling up their sleeves to help protect the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands as part of a new conservation internship.

The programme brings together key players from UCOL, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Rangitāne o Wairarapa, and Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. It aims to empower kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of te taiao (the environment) while offering paid conservation experience to those entering the field.

Ella Buckley, Senior Biodiversity Advisor – Wairarapa Moana for Greater Wellington, says the partnership is beneficial for everyone.

"We’re committed to building conservation capability here in the Wairarapa. While students are completing the New Zealand Certificate in Conservation (Operations), the internship with Greater Wellington gives them an opportunity to gain local, hands-on experience in conservation, while being paid a living wage."

UCOL conservation ākonga, Callum Taylor, was pleased to be accepted into this year’s programme and is excited about the wide variety of practical experience he’s gaining.

“It’s a great opportunity to get to know the people and projects and to grow awareness of what’s available,” says Callum.

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Callum enjoys all aspects of conservation and particularly loves working with sea birds, such as banding and monitoring the Black Petrels on Aotea (Great Barrier Island). For people interested in conservation, Callum recommends finding out about local initiatives and available volunteering opportunities.

L-R: Student interns for Wairarapa Moana, Jimmy Barnes, Callum Taylor, and Leonie Edwards, looking out over Lake Ōnoke. Photo/Supplied

“Volunteering is a great way to engage with the community and to improve and build conservation knowledge and skills. There are heaps of opportunities out there, or you could enrol in UCOL’s conservation course too!”

Carrie Mckenzie, Director UCOL Wairarapa, says that working closely with Iwi has been an important cornerstone of the programme.

"The Wairarapa Moana Wetlands are taonga and recognised as a Ramsar wetland with international significance, so it's important we respect and look after the area. Iwi offer valuable mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and reflecting cultural values is an important part of conservation, so we want to make sure it’s embedded in what we teach our ākonga."

Under the guidance of various conservation experts and Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Project Partners, ākonga are learning a range of conservation skills, including pest control, planting operations, and freshwater restoration. By creating the opportunity to try their hand at different projects, ākonga can discover for themselves which pathways interest them the most, and build up their CV.

L-R: Student interns for Wairarapa Moana, Callum Taylor, Jimmy Barnes, and Leonie Edwards undertaking photo point monitoring at Lake Domain to monitor restoration planting. Photo/Supplied

"Many people aren’t aware of the conservation work we do here at Greater Wellington," Ella explains.

"Through the internship we’re able to highlight the work we do while sharing our knowledge with the next generation of kaitiaki, showing them how many conservation career opportunities there are within different agencies across the rohe.

“Students are getting to build connections and develop skills that will serve them well in the future."

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