Coromandel Outdoor Language Centre in New Zealand have introduced a number of environmental projects to its students to help preserve the areas natural beauty that attracts so many to study there.
The school is situated on the edge of the river in Whitianga surrounded by bush clad hills, sandy beaches and stretches of coastline.
We spoke to Director Kim Lawry to find out more...
Why did you start environmental projects?
As our name suggests there has always been a strong outdoor aspect to the way we run our school. This is aided by where we are located, right in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts on NZ.
Many of the students who choose our school do so because of their love of nature and their desire to experience the New Zealand environment at its finest. We thought that if Mother Nature was helping to attract our students, it was only fair to try to give something back to her. And so the COLC Environmental Projects were born.
What was your first project?
We began with a small native plant nursery in which we experimented with growing various NZ plants. The first plants were planted along local stream and river banks with the intention of eventually improving the water quality in those streams. Many of those first trees are now 3 metres tall and well established.
We quickly expanded to growing NZ Kauri trees which have a big place in our history, especially on the Coromandel Peninsula. We grow these trees from seed and now have 1500 in the nursery as well as having the first 500 planted back into the environment on a site where we hope to establish our very own Kauri forest. This site was burned in a forest fire 18 months ago and our plants are a large part of the restoration of that area.
That sounds fantastic, what is COLC and your students working on now?
We have recently started producing sand dune plants for some local dune restoration projects and this year will produce about 3000 of those plants. The local Council is now supporting our nursery and we will double or even treble our production of sand dune plants in the coming season.
We are also involved with kiwi protection, and work closely with the long established Project Kiwi Trust, which operates close to Whitianga. Kiwi’s biggest problems are caused by introduced predators, particularly stoats and rats, and they are also threatened by possums which destroy the kiwi habitat. COLC runs its own trapline in the bush near the established kiwi population. This trapline has 47 traps that need to be checked, cleared, rebaited, and maintained every two weeks. This is a big commitment but in 3 years we have removed 350 predators from the area, and now the native birds and even the kiwis are returning to the site.
We also maintain the Department of Conservation track where the trapline is located. This means frequent working bees in the bush, building steps, clearing fallen trees and generally keeping the the track clean and tidy.
Wow, so you are really making a difference. How do your students get involved?
Students can just join in when we have a working bee on a particular project, or they can actually enrol in English plus Environment. On this course they will be involved in the projects 3 afternoons week and will learn lots about NZ plants, birds and conservation.
Our students really enjoy this amazing experience and go home feeling they have made a positive contribution to the NZ environment while they have been here.
Momentum in the projects is growing and we expect to see more students involved and more growth in the projects as time goes on.