About 40 Western Bay of Plenty schoolchildren have joined Waikato University scientists, Manaaki Te Awanui, NIWA, DoC and iwi experts for hands-on lessons in marine biosecurity.
The students gathered at Tauranga Bridge Marina to check pest crab traps and study aquatic species alongside scientists from the university’s coastal marine field station.
The culturally-infused programme is part of a biosecurity week events calendar co-ordinated by the newly-launched Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital collective.
The two-day iwi-led wānanga aims to help young people identify, understand and combat the invasive pest species that threaten the region.
Children from Katikati Primary, Te Puna School, Te Kura o Matapihi,Te Kura Kaupapa o Te Matai and Te Kura o Maketu will also focus on native bush biosecurity threats.
Pupils from all five participating schools are encouraged to share the new knowledge with their whānau and classmates.
In addition each teacher and student has received an education pack from the university so participants can continue being kaitiaki beyond the day’s activities.
Reon Tuanau, who is overseeing the programme on behalf of Te Rῡnanga o Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi Trust, hopes the Mana Taiao programme will help protect Tauranga Moana from future biosecurity incursions.
“We’re in a very, very scary time in terms of biosecurity with the invasive species,” Reon says. “This port is the busiest export port in New Zealand, also we’ve got a busy airport, so we’ve got all these threats surrounding us.
“We need to work with our rangatahi, our young ones, and we need to start arming them. The day is about passing on knowledge, starting to get them thinking around biosecurity and hopefully, in the years to come, they become the leaders of the future in terms of protecting the taonga that we have here.”
Dr Kaeden Leonard, biosecurity specialist at the Coastal Marine Field Station, echoes his biosecurity fears.
“There definitely needs to be a lot more education out there with regards to how we could be affected,” Kaeden says. “It's not just the marine industry. It's all of us. And so these sorts of wānanga for our youth are a really important part of our awareness campaign.”
The wānanga is the result of a collaboration between the University of Waikato and Tauranga Moana iwi, Manaaki Te Awanui, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Dept of Conservation, Predator Free BOP, Manaaki Whenua, Landcare Trust, BOP Regional Council, NIWA and MPI.
University of Waikato marine biology masters student Mel Kellett helps students identify invasive paddle crabs during the Mana Taiao event at the Tauranga Bridge marina.
Matapihi students Nixon Mohi, Moana Dixon, Maikea Williams and Kaya-Rae Donnelly-Reedy analyse their collection of sea life during the Mana Taiao event at the Tauranga Bridge marina.