Featherston pupils breathing life back into stream

St Teresa’s School students are going above and beyond to restore the health of Donald’s Creek. On Wednesday 31 July, a group of passionate Year 6 pupils will be planting natives carex sedge and toetoe alongside the stream in an effort to improve the environment and to encourage life back to the water. 

The students are inviting members of the community to bring along their spades, a picnic lunch, and a sense of humour to help them with the planting day, which is Stage 1 of the Donald’s Creek Restoration Project. It will take place at Donald’s Creek, State Highway 53, just after the 100kmh sign heading towards Martinborough.

At the event, the students will also share their greater vision for the area and the next steps they will be taking towards making it a space that everyone, including future generations, can enjoy. Included in their overall vision are picnic areas and walking paths through the grasses, as well as signs with information about the surrounding wildlife.

St Teresa’s School, alongside the other Featherston schools, was granted guardianship of the South Wairarapa District Council-owned section of Donald’s Creek that runs between SH53 and SH2 in 2016. Year 7 and 8 students went on to learn how to test and monitor the water quality, as well as learning what actions they could take to make a difference. The pupils carried out plantings in 2017, however the area became overgrown and the grasses have been mowed as the area was not fenced off.

St Teresa’s School teacher Liz Lark said an enthusiastic bunch of Year 6 students were ready to step in with their spades and make a positive difference to the environment. “They are motivated about taking action, and seeing their ideas come to life,” Liz said. The students are determined that the project will remain in everyone’s’ minds, with art projects and community celebrations planned to take place at the stream in future.

The students said the planting would increase the amount of biodiversity at the stream, like encouraging more native fish and aquatic life. It was about creating a habitat that would also encourage an increasing range of macroinvertebrates, birds, insects and small reptiles. “We want to restore the area into a space the whole community will love as much as we do, and we hope the community will help us look after it for years to come,” the students said.

SWDC Amenities Manager Bryce Neems said the initiative shown by the pupils was inspiring and Council fully supported their vision. “It’s great to see the students taking their role as kaitiaki, or guardians, of the area seriously and taking steps to improve our local environment.”

Mountains to Sea Wellington has been helping the students through the Whitebait Connection education programme, supported by the Greater Wellington Regional Council. As part of that programme, MTSW helped the children develop their Action Plan and set up a monitoring programme, so they can collect and record data from the stream project.

MTSW Director Zoe Studd said the data could then be uploaded into a national NIWA database capturing information about life in the stream, habitat and water quality information. “Over time it will help us see if positive changes are taking place,” Zoe said. She said she had been blown away by the leadership demonstrated by the school children and their teacher.

“It’s inspiring to see them in action and these young kaitiaki are showing us all what a bit of determination can get underway. They want to see fish and native animals thrive again in this forgotten spot. It’s going to be really important for them to have lots of community support to help realise their vision and anyone who wants to offer time, ideas and resources to the project would be really welcome,” Zoe said.

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