Te Awa Iti Restoration
Te awa iti, meaning ‘little stream’ in Te Reo, is a fresh water restoration project created by the Ngake class from Natone Park School in Bothamley Park, Waitangirua, Porirua.
The students have been supported to be guardians of the Kenepuru stream tributary, Te Awa Iti, through the Healthy Harbours Porirua programme delivered by Mountains to Sea Wellington.
Starting in the classroom
After their first introduction to marine ecosystems through Healthy Harbours, the budding eco warriors took part in the Whitebait Connection program, introducing them to the freshwater ecosystems in their area. The freshwater education program involves classroom presentations about local freshwater waterways and covers ecology and biodiversity with a focus on whitebait. The kids participated in games like “who dirtied the harbour” to learn about impacts on freshwater ecosystems. They created flow charts to link human impacts to solutions, and then drew their vision of the park and what they believe a healthy ecosystem should look like.
Into the field
After the classroom work, students go on field trips to streams and rivers around their local area and MTSW staff help them through some experiments and monitoring activities to show them how scientists check waterway health.
What they found
Using the data gathered from these activities, students decide what they biggest threat to the waterway is – and in the case of Te Awa Iti, a tributary of Kenepuru Stream, it was rubbish. Programme Coordinator for Mountains to Sea Wellington, Jorge Jimenez, says the students decided to try and solve the problem by doing monthly rubbish clean ups.
Getting amongst it
The students were so excited to jump into the mud and start cleaning up that they almost forgot to put on their safety gear before diving in. They collected 355 pieces of rubbish in the first month, which translates to maybe 200 litres of rubbish. Amongst the rubbish they found, it was heartbreaking to find a motorbike and car parts, and even a petrol can! These objects contain materials that are terrible for the water quality of the stream and can cause blockages to the water flow.
Seeking a larger impact
After seeing how much impact they were doing with the cleanups, the students decided to start doing audits alongside the cleanups to have data they could show for their work. After completing eight clean ups, and with facts behind their actions, they reached out to the Greater Wellington Regional Council for more resources and support to increase their impact. They began collecting and counting rubbish with extra hands from Conservation Volunteers New Zealand.
Thanks to the extra help, or perhaps the heavy rain during the previous days, the students collected a new high of 531 rubbish items from the stream and its banks.
The students also reached out to Porirua City Council to help with disposing of the rubbish collected. Then they have also been working with Sustainable coastlines to plant trees along the newly restored areas.
The amazing work and environmental restoration these students have been doing was heard far and wide; Including by the creators of Te Papa’s Te Taiao Nature exhibit. As of May 11th 2019, these students have been featured in a three minute video about their project in the Kaitiaki community groups section of the museum exhibit.
Leaving a legacy to follow
The students are continuing to work on other ideas to make Te Awa Iti a healthier place for the fauna and flora found in the area, starting with asking Porirua City Council to install rubbish bins along the Bothamley Park pathways. The momentum left by the kids who started this project has left an amazing legacy for younger kids coming through Natone Park School to continue being guardians for their local freshwater ecosystems.