Enviroschools students share aroha and kaupapa with their communities

Published on 17 May 2023

Ohau planting

Empowered students and sustainable communities are two of the guiding principles of the Enviroschools programme kaupapa, and on Sunday 7 May, students from Waitaki Boys and Girls High Schools showed how these principles can inspire and be translated into powerful action.

In October 2020 Lake Ōhau Alpine Village was changed forever by a wildfire that destroyed 44 homes and 5000 hectares of vegetation. Waitaki Girls Enviro-club students felt deeply moved by the impact of this event on one of their local communities and decided they wanted to contribute.

The pandemic environment challenges for schools over 2021 and 2022 meant that bringing this to fruition was delayed until 2023. At a combined Waitaki Boys and Girls Enviroschools senior student hui, the students collectively decided this was one of their priority actions for the year to achieve together.

With a personalised invitation from Ōhau Community Trust members to attend a planting day, support from their Enviro lead teachers, facilitator and parents, and a contribution from the Enviroschools ecological building fund, 17 students headed up to Ōhau Village for an overnight stay and a day planting out on Avoca Forest to a plan that will regenerate the area around Lake Middleton, previously populated with pine species, into a native forest with walkways and seating for their generation and future ones to enjoy.

And it’s not only current enviro-students taking action to contribute to communities and sustainability for their future. Joining them for planting were members of the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) from Canterbury University, two of whom are ex Waitaki students.

Lucianne White, Enviroschools Waitaki facilitator, said “we had just been talking about how great it was to have enviro-students working alongside groups like SVA, showing that link between the passion and action the Enviroschools programme inspires and opportunities for taking action for change once they’ve left their Enviroschools. And what was completely magical was we banged straight into Tilly King, the 2021 Waitaki Girls Enviroclub leader, and she was like a living, breathing link of how this incredible kaupapa gets carried forward through life after school”.

Tilly recently featured in an article on the Enviroschools website about empowered Waitaki rangatahi rising to the challenge of taking action with creative thinking, innovation, leadership and vision, both in school and out there in their communities:


Combined efforts from Waitaki Enviro-students and teachers, the Student Volunteer Army and community volunteers saw 1083 natives planted in what Ōhau Community Trust chairperson, Viv Smith-Campbell, said was “a huge boost to the restoration of this area”. This planting was to acknowledge and thank the firefighters who fought the 2020 wildfire.