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World Wetlands Day at Wherowhero Lagoon
Feb 18, 2005
Author: Dr Sarah Boyle, Regional Weedbusters Co-ordinator

A group of around 90 senior students and their teachers from Muriwai and Manutuke Schools joined Sarah Boyle, Regional Weedbusters Co-ordinator, Soraya Pohatu and Mary-Anne Pohatu from the Muriwai Tamanuhiri Trust, Don McLean and Jane Goodman from DOC and Robyn Wilkie, former Weedbusters Co-ordinator, for a fun-packed field day in February at Wherowhero Lagoon to celebrate World Wetlands Day.

World Wetlands Day is an international event aimed at raising awareness about the importance of the world’s wetlands, and Weedbusters Co-ordinator, Sarah, decided to repeat last year’s event at Wherowhero Lagoon as a hands-on approach to community awareness about weeds, amongst other environmental topics.

The day’s activities at Wherowhero Lagoon began with a Mihimihi by Soraya to welcome everyone, followed by brief introductions about the day’s events by each of the people specialising in their fields of work.

Sarah discussed some of the native plants and animals found in the lagoon and the problems that weeds can cause for native New Zealand species. She also showed them a wooden penguin box, which was built for an ongoing Ecoworks project aimed at increasing the numbers of blue penguins on the Gisborne coast. The children were also excited to hear that they would be constructing more boxes for the project back in their classrooms.

Don talked about his work as a plant scientist at DOC and about some of the plants found in the lagoon environment, and Jane talked about estuarine fish species and methods of catching them, which provided much amusement to the children, especially when they examined a preserved specimen and the traps used to catch tuna (eels). Robyn highlighted the issues of dropping litter and this was followed by a rubbish pickup before morning tea.

The hands-on learning then began with heaps of energy and enthusiasm from the children. Soraya walked a group of children through the beautiful plantings of natives along the lagoon and talked about the different species and their cultural and environmental importance, as well as the work involved in growing the plants from seed to plants that are able to look after themselves. Sarah and Robyn took a group into the waters edge to find mudcrabs, pipis, cockles, seaweed, and dune-stabilising grasses such as Spinifex. Don and Jane took a group to the southern end to try out the eel net and discover what species of fish and plants were around.

We all assembled for lunch (under the welcome shade of a pergola!) to discuss what each of the groups had discovered – two children from each group stood up to talk about three things they had learnt and they were rewarded with beautiful native trees and Weedbusters badges for their efforts. A collective weeding around the native plantings was the final activity of the day, along with a thorough litter picking of the area, which produced three black bin bags full (including lunch rubbish)!

The day inspired many beautiful drawings and the children sang a traditional ‘thank you’ song to the organisers. Each of the classes took away illustrated information panels for their classrooms and Weedbusters information packs.

The coordinators, Sarah and Soraya, would like to say a big ‘Thank You’ to all who took part with such energy and enthusiasm and invited them to contact them with any enquiries regarding native plantings or weed issues – the contact number is (06) 869 0490.