New programme cultivates next-gen guardians of our environment

The inaugural Whakaraupō Moana programme, an immersive multi-day learning experience for secondary and tertiary ākonga/students, proved an empowering opportunity for young guardians of our natural world.

Hosted in Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour, Whaka-Ora Healthy Harbour and Environment Canterbury, in partnership with the Untouched World Foundation and Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, invited 16 ākonga/students from across Aotearoa to explore the cultural and ecological values of the harbour and surrounding catchments.

The new programme is designed to help young people study and understand the complexity of our natural environment, while supporting and inspiring them to lead the way in achieving a sustainable future.

Whakaraupō Moana inspires new leaders

Whakaraupō is an important place for many different people. The harbour is also home to the mana whenua of Ngāti Wheke, residents, commercial enterprises, and visitors, who all play a role in the catchment’s ecological and cultural health.

Rangatahi/young people from universities and high schools across the motu were represented in the group of ākonga who joined the programme this year. While many of the students didn’t know each other before embarking on Whakaraupō Moana, they were connected by a passion our natural environment and a desire to be a part of meaningful action.

In her first year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in ecology and conservation, Coral Peat was excited by a chance to stay on the marae with like-minded peers, and dive deep into topics like sustainability and social change.

“While I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect Whakaraupō Moana to be, I was initially drawn to join this programme for the leadership development opportunities, and for the chance to critically think about the sustainably of the systems in and around Lyttelton harbour,” said the Lincoln University student.

Over the course of course of six days, students were mentored by facilitators and encouraged to investigate Ōtautahi’s iconic harbour through the lens of interdependence, ora taiao/healthy environment, healthy people, what it means to be an active citizen, and kaitiakitanga/nurturing place.

Rangatahi were also invited to hear from organisations across the landscape, representing the important partnerships that focus on the wellbeing of the harbour while balancing the different interests of the communities that live and work there.

The complexity of this environment made for unique learning opportunities, rich discussions, and personal reflections.

Partnerships in action

Active partnerships and collaboration are paramount for balancing the critical commercial activity in Whakaraupō with the ecological and cultural values of this special place.

To explore the landscape of organisations involved in the harbour, students were given a rare opportunity to join Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) on a boat tour of the South Island’s largest port.

Alongside partners from NIWA and Environment Canterbury Harbourmaster staff, the group dove into the complex scientific and commercial aspects of managing this marine environment like, how LPC protects Hector dolphins while operating in the port using under-water acoustic monitoring, and how NIWA mitigates the threat of a Mediterranean fanworm invasion, a pest which can spread between harbours via incoming.

Thinking about the future

At the conclusion of the Whakaraupō Moana journey, ākonga reflected on their new insights, and the changes that they were committed to making in their lives to better our environment, and Aotearoa’s approach to sustainability.

Whaka-Ora Healthy Harbour Chair Yvette Couch-Lewis of Ngāti Wheke encourages the ākonga to develop an ongoing commitment and connection to Whakaraupō and the surrounding Taiao.

“A programme like this is of benefit to Whakaraupō if those participating are inspired to commit to ongoing action; we hope that transpires.”

Whaka-Ora Healthy Harbour Programme Manager, Brent Barrett, hopes the students walked away with an optimistic outlook on the protection of landscapes and their ecology.

“It was an excellent way to open up the ākonga minds to the diverse opportunities for restoration practices in Whakaraupō, as well as the complexity of achieving these outcomes through various agencies tasked with its protection.”