Whakatane Kiwi Trust’s unique classroom and outdoor education programme will reach more school children than ever before thanks partly to a $17,500 grant from BayTrust.

The community-led charity has already taught more than 1000 school children about kiwi, their habitat and the importance of looking after the bird’s natural environment. One classroom lesson is run each week on average, and is followed up by a ‘kiwi tracker walk’ in Ohope where kids can experience the bush first-hand, see dead pests caught in traps, visit burrows and touch kiwi egg shells and feathers.

The education programme will expand in 2019 and a fulltime educator employed after BayTrust approved a grant just before Christmas. Further funds are also being sought from other community funding agencies.

“The Kiwi Trust really appreciate the support of BayTrust to run this initiative,” Whakatane Kiwi Trust chairman John Pullar says.

“Our new programme will have a much bigger scope and reach a much bigger audience. There’s a lot of schools in the Whakatane district, including Murupara, that we would love to include in the programme. And if schools from outside our area want to come and visit us as well, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Pullar says education is the key to New Zealand achieving its goal of becoming predator-free by 2050.

“Educating kids is a big part of passing on the message of how important it is to look after our environment because it’s a cyclic thing. When you remove pests such as stoats, rats and possums, the bush and insects thrive, and then birds thrive too. Our feeling is that when children grasp the key messages, they will then educate their parents.”

The Whakatane Kiwi Trust was originally formed to work with the Department of Conservation, Whakatane District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Ngati Awa and local landowners. As a result, over 13,000 pests have been trapped and killed in Ohope and Whakatane reserves since 2001 and over 300 kiwi and countless other birds are now thriving in a safe, protected environment.

BayTrust CEO Alastair Rhodes says improving the natural environment is a key priority for the organisation which is committed to helping make the Bay of Plenty ‘the greatest place to be’.

“Our natural environment is fundamental to the sustainability and future of the Bay of Plenty. The Whakatane Kiwi Trust does an outstanding job of raising awareness and coordinating volunteer support to maintain trapping lines so the local kiwi population can thrive,” Rhodes says.

“We agree that educating the next generation of New Zealanders is an important part of ensuring North Island brown kiwi continue to survive and we’re sure there are lots of Eastern Bay school children who are going to feel inspired to get involved.”