The Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust profile
provides valuable insight into effective community
relationship-building. The level of sponsorship and volunteer hours
shown for the Trust’s initiatives clearly indicates the success of their
programmes. Their Environment Centre and school workshop initiatives
into waste minimalisation and composting involve students and adults
alike in practical experience, familiarity and information transfer. In
this article, edited by David Speir, we look specifically at their
community involvement programmes.
Halfmoon Bay is the gateway to Stewart Island/ Rakiura, and the only
site of permanent residence. The community is comprised mainly of
retirees, tourism operators and accommodation providers, people in the
fishing industry, the Department of Conservation staff and those
providing services to the local and visiting community. The Island also
receives around 60,000 visitors each year.
The township is situated on the edge, and in some cases amongst the
native bush environment for which Stewart Island is known. The Island
itself is cut off from some of the developments, conveniences and
introduced pest threats of mainland New Zealand, by the Foveaux Strait.
Regular transport is available via sea and air, and most Islanders have
telephone or Internet connections.
Thus, there are many areas of potential environmental achievement, and
many potential issues, which are unique to the location.
Stewart Island is, visually, a site under less human impact than many
other inhabited places around the country. Many visitors to the Island
find the natural environment a highlight of their visit.
Despite their solitary status, Halfmoon Bay is still in danger of waste
pollutants, deliberate or accidental pest invasions, and over use of
Rakiura Environment Centre
The Rakiura Environment Centre (REC), in the heart of Halfmoon Bay,
provides a central location, through which positive, environmental
information, advice, workshops and projects can be shared and promoted
amongst the local and visiting community. The vision for the center is
to provide a focus for community-driven environmental education and
environmental protection. Some visitors in the past have remarked on the
limit to activity options on the Island during poor weather. The REC
provides a dry, welcoming environment in both fine and stormy weather.
SIRCET’s Objectives in creating the Rakiura Environmental Centre are
• To communicate information to, and involve the community in positive,
relevant environmental activities.
• To liaise and inform the community about the SIRCET work on an ongoing
• To help our community feel proud of its local environment and support
environmental protection of that environment.
• To help local children and adults learn about the environment, pest
control and resource recovery.
• To promote positive environmental projects undertaken in the local
community, and to encourage support of these projects.
• To highlight the activities and benefits of Rakiura Resource Recovery
and other recycling opportunities.
The Rakiura Environment Centre (REC) was opened in 2004/05 and has been
available since then for both the local community and visitors to the
Island to use daily. The centre itself is not manned, as it is intended
to be self-guiding. Information panels contain eye-catching, relevant
information and guide visitors towards folders with more in-depth
information about each topic.
Visitors can sit and read information at their leisure, whilst looking
out towards Halfmoon Bay and the Halfmoon Bay Habitat Restoration
Project area. This is especially designed for visitors on wet days and
those who are looking for a restful activity between walks.
Inside the centre five rear lighted display panels provide a warm,
welcoming environment which is attractive to visitors from outside the
centre. Up-to-date information about the community, environment and
positive community projects is currently displayed on the panels, with
reference to locally assembled information folders about each topic for
Live nest camera link
Work is under way to link a nest camera set-up to a monitor in the REC
so that visitors and locals can monitor the progress of local nests
inside the restoration area. Observations from nests not only provide an
opportunity to see images which are normally hidden from the general
public, they provide a unique learning opportunity and a strong point of
advocacy for the protection of our vulnerable native wildlife.
Environmental Education Opportunities for the Community
SIRCET run workshops for the extended community and the HMB school on an
average of two workshops per year. Workshop topics include waste
recycling, zero waste, weeds workshop (how to identify and deal to major
weeds), backyard pest control and rat trapping.
Halfmoon Bay Senior School: Composting
A unit on Composting, designed by the Wastebusters Trust, Canterbury,
was carried out with the senior students at the Halfmoon Bay School.
Students participated in the exercises enthusiastically, searching for
invertebrates in samples of dirt and completed compost, answering
quizzes relating to the topic and setting up their own, school compost
bin. The children now maintain the compost bin as a part of their weekly
roster system, with all junior students supervised by a senior school
Halfmoon Bay Junior School: Zero Waste
Zero Waste is a goal to which we can all relate, but only once we know
and understand how much waste our daily activities produces. A unit on
Zero Waste, designed by the Wastebusters Trust, Canterbury, was carried
out with the junior students at the Halfmoon Bay School. Students learnt
about ways in which their daily choices can benefit or harm their
environment and thus their future. Examples of products relevant to
their age bracket and interests, which use recycled and recyclable
materials were shown and compared with similar products made from
Through the exercise of a “lunchbox challenge” students learned how to
choose items and packaging for their daily lunches which left no “waste”
products after lunch was finished. Feedback from parents showed that
this activity was a remarkably powerful tool, as students explained to
them their preferences for a cleaner New Zealand.
Increasing Biodiversity in the Backyard
The workshop was carried out across two days, fitting in with a
week-long focus on the outdoor environment. The first morning in the
classroom looked at what makes something ‘native’ and developing
interest and care amongst the students for native birds, lizards,
insects and frogs. Using groups and moving around a variety of quizzes
in different parts of the room, the children were given the chance to
identify and learn about different species and to think about choosing a
favourite bird, lizard or insect.
The older students later looked at food chains and food webs,
considering the ways in which our endemic species worked together and
how this was disrupted on many levels when introduced species invaded an
area. The younger students took part in a game which helped demonstrate
the risks to trees from several pest types and how this increases as
pest numbers became higher. The game then demonstrates the compounding
benefits of local people controlling these pests.
The following afternoon, the students were taken on a ‘field trip’ in
the project area. They were guided off the gravel track into the native
bush. They saw nesting burrows and cavities, understanding why they are
at risk from introduced predators but protected from native ones,
pointed out the abundant flowers, fruits and insects available for food
and saw traps which local adults and families have ‘adopted’ to protect
these precious elements. The day also incorporated elements of bush
safety and safety around traps.
A further grant from the Biodiversity Advice fund was approved to
support a workshop in the 2006/ 07 year. In January 2007, a workshop
aimed at identifying and managing major weeds risks in Halfmoon Bay was
held, followed by an afternoon of field work and a barbeque. Mary
Chittenden, working alongside SIRCET as a part of the Department of
Internal Affairs “Community Internship Programme” held a workshop
demonstrating how easily weeds colonise an area and how damaging this
can be to the health of local fauna.
Participants then walked through an area of the project, identifying
Chilean Flame Creeper and Darwin’s Barberry. This was aimed at
increasing awareness and interest, for volunteers to keep an eye on
areas they ‘adopt’ in future. A small group stayed to hand-pull all
seedlings in the area whilst the remainder moved down to begin a
replanting project. The day was a great success with people of all ages,
plus families becoming involved. A barbeque was held at the end of the
day to thank everyone who had been a part of the project.
As well as this, open days invite the community to be a part of the
habitat restoration project, or to come along and find out more about
what we are doing.
A “drop-in” day is being planned, inviting the community to speak with
Brent Beaven at the REC. Brent is writing a scoping document for
eradicating rats from Stewart Island/ Rakiura, as an employee of DOC on
behalf of SIRCET. He has invited the community to talk with him about
any concerns they may have, discuss concepts he will need to consider
and to ask how he is addressing areas of particular interest to
There are many lessons to be learned from the cohesive and inclusive
methods that SIRCET use to maintain a strong support base for their
activities. They have excellent sponsorship and log high volunteer hours
but it is their work with students that will pay generous dividends in