Student initiative protects native bush

By Anja Filip (pictured above hiking in Mt Pirongia Forest Park)
Akoranga Enviro Prefect and Project Leader

This year a new environmental project is starting at Westlake Girls High School. The “Adopt A Park” project is an initiative, which will educate, inspire and motivate Westlake students to become leaders, young conservationists and Kaitiaki (guardians) for the natural environment. 

Working alongside Auckland Council, Westlake Girls is essentially ‘adopting’ Smiths Bush, next to Netball North Harbour and Onewa Domain.

In this process, a group of passionate Westlake students will be carrying out environmental work in the bush, in an effort to protect it. This will include rubbish clean ups, pest/predator monitoring and control, weeding, native plant ID, native bird ID, stream monitoring/testing and plant care. There will also be integration of topics related to the project in the school curriculum. Smiths Bush is of high ecological value and is the only forest remnant of its type in Auckland, so it is vital that it is looked after and cared for. 

This is a unique opportunity for students (and staff) to receive environmental education, new practical skills, develop their leadership and find a potential passion and career path for the future. Environmental education is largely lacking in the New Zealand curriculum so this project is a chance for the Westlake Community to expand their knowledge around the biodiversity of Aotearoa, threats to te taiao and how we can help. 

Whilst the project is at its beginnings, it will be continued for years to come, so that the future students of Westlake Girls can continue to expand their knowledge and skills and collaborate with one another to protect the wild things and wild places in the Westlake vicinity. 

The group that is working on this project is called ‘Westlake Kaitiaki’ (Westlake Guardians) and we are looking forward to an exciting year ahead, filled with learning, education, action and fun.