Porirua Guardians 2020

Porirua Guardians Set Sail for Kāpiti Island – Local Porirua students recently dived into the Kāpiti Island Marine Reserve – all thanks to taking environmental action in their backyard and being recognised as the 2020 Porirua Guardians.

Sponsored each year by Greater Wellington, the Porirua Guardians competition celebrates local students and the mahi they do in protecting the natural spaces of Te Awarua-o-Porirua. Four students from Ngāti Toa and Mana College were this years’ winners. The prize – a day for them and their whānau to attend the annual Kāpiti Island Community Snorkel – took place on the 20th of Feb, and saw nearly 100 participants guided through the 29-year-old marine reserve.

Giving students and their families the chance to see the impact that long-term protection can make on land and in the ocean is one of the key ambitions of the Porirua Guardians Competition. It is also a great opportunity to share the students work with others in the community. Mountains to Sea Wellington were over the moon to announce the winners of the annual Porirua Guardians competition in December – but it was a long wait for the winners, who had until February before they could experience the wonders of Kāpiti Marine Reserve first hand.

Karena and Jack, Mana College, took environmental action after participating in the Love Rimurimu project. The Love Rimurimu project connects students with the amazing world of Seaweed.

Taking action

The students had taken different approaches to combating some local environmental issues. What impressed the judges was the commitment and leadership they’d all shown in their projects.

Miriam Siave & Emiliia Laavasa from Ngāti Toa School drew inspiration for their environmental mahi from a desire to protect their own local awa, the Hukarito. They have taken the helm in looking after the Hukarito, with drain art, plantings, stream health monitoring, signs for the awa, and even writing letters to the local council environmental protection officer. The actions undertaken by these students has been featured in the Current Journal, connecting them with their wider community.

Miriam and Emiliia with their letters to the Regional Councils Environmental Protection Officer

Students Karena Warn and Jack McMahon from Mana College were selected as winners for their leadership within the newly set up Marine Studies Course. The Marine Studies initiative began in 2020 and after a great start hit some obvious speed bumps – thanks to the nationwide lockdown early last year! Despite this fact, Jack and Karena rose to the challenge.

According to their tutor, and Year 12 Dean, Marina Anderton “For the remainder of the course they led the class in any and all initiatives – from zoom meetings and all the way to the eventual beach clean up”. The Mana students have set up a new Litter Intelligence Citizen Science monitoring site for the bay to help track rubbish, its impact, and its sources.  Anderton says “they slowly began to realise that they could have an impact on marine sustainability and were happy to be interviewed and have their picture taken for social media releases. In term four they undertook a community action, hoping to spread the word about sustainability and connect interested groups of people.”


The Prize

This year’s Community Snorkel on Kāpiti gave these young changemakers a chance to dip into one of New Zealands largest marine reserves, whilst also exploring the bird life on the island. Drift diving from the Southern Landing at Rangatira Point, participants were treated with glimpses of the resident biodiversity. Massive eagle rays, grumpy faced blue cod and stripy red moki all graced us with their presence. Even the rich vibrant seaweeds found along the coast had our snorkellers mesmerized.

For first time snorkellers Miriam and mum Rebekah it was quite the adventure: “I liked stepping into the water, how it was cold at first but then you warmed up really fast. I loved seeing all the little fish and how colourful the seaweed actually was. I always thought it was just green or brown because that’s what we see washed up on the beach. I really liked how it seemed like whole new world! Looking under the water for the first time and seeing a new different habitat.” – Miriam. When asked about a favourite animal from the day – “Oh, the kākā up at the hihi feeder… it landed on my head (laughter).”

Miriam’s mum also shared a little of her experience   – “it was such an amazing opportunity,  especially the fact that we got to turn and thank the girls at the end. The fact that we got to really emphasise that it was their passion for the environment that got us out here, not anything any adult had done. I had never been snorkelling before and felt a little it apprehensive, but we felt like we were in such safe hands the entire time. There’s so much actually down there that you never really take the time to see. Thanks to the girls I have a new appreciation for something that I was a little fearful of to start with.”


This years Porirua Guardians at Kāpiti Island, from left:  Miriam Siave and Emiliia Laavassa (Ngāti Toa School), Joe Warmington  (MTSW), Karena Warn and Jack McMahon (Mana College)

Get involved

The Annual Porirua Guardians Celebration is a way to acknowledge the important role young people have in Te Awarua-o-Porirua, to celebrate young leaders, inspirers, and changemakers from the region and to encourage their future endeavours. To recognise the hard work that they have displayed in protecting their local environment the Porirua Guardians trip offers them a chance to share their environmental actions with their local community and to experience the impact of long-term restoration and protection.

It’s super important to know those hand signals, looking “okay” to us Miriam!

There will be plenty more chances for students taking action to showcase their environmental mahi during this coming years Porirua Guardians Competition.  MTSW Programme Coordinator Joe Warmington was involved with the competition and had the opportunity to lead the snorkel that the winners participated in. “Being able to see the change these students are actively having on their local environment, and the way they are capturing hearts and minds within their local communities is incredible. As an educator, being able to help facilitate these opportunities for such amazing tamariki is so incredibly rewarding. It’s just really important that these guys are recognised for the work and time they put in to help improve the health of Te Awarua-o-Porirua.”

Is that a look of post-snorkel wonder, or just a trickle of cold water down the back of the wetsuit?

In Wellington the EMR and WBC programmes are delivered by the Mountains to Sea Wellington team. Students learn about the marine and freshwater environment by being fully immersed in it through hands-on experiences, and see the benefits of environmental protection first hand. Students are then supported to take action themselves and make positive change.

Have you experienced your local marine environment yet? Mountains to Sea Wellington also provide free community guided snorkels experiences every summer, no experience needed. To find out more or get involved follow us on Facebook or check out our events page.

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