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Zero Waste on Rakiura


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 resources.

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 multiple:
• 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 basis.
• 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.

Information Displays

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 further reading.

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 student.

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 non-recycled materials.

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 BackyardShiprat (rattus norwegicus) in a SIRCET trap.  Photo by Brent Beaven

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.

Weeds Workshop

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.

Community Concerns

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 themselves.

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 the future.