Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Schoolkids dig in to improve local waterways

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Tatuanui students run native plant nursery to supply local dairy farmers and raise funds.
Grayson McMillan, Abel Hagoort and Drew Williamson get ready to plant. Photo: Supplied
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Tatuanui School students are running their own native plant nursery, helping local dairy farmers and the community improve water quality.

The children had a fun day on Friday, July 21, helping Waikato dairy farmers Nic and Kirsty Verhoek plant 1000 native sedge grasses alongside a farm waterway.

The children grow the grasses at their school, which Kirsty Verhoek describes as a hugely positive initiative.

The nursery is a community initiative set up by dairy farmers and the school, with support from local businesses. The children learn about sustainability and supporting their community.

“They’re developing a connection to the land and caring for the environment,” Verhoek, who is also a DairyNZ senior scientist, said.

“I love the idea that, one day, they’ll be able to bring their own children to see the plants and trees they’ve helped plant and what they have achieved in their community.”

Penelope Paikau, Humeira Kazim, Dana van Ras at the fun day.

The Verhoeks are sharemilkers on Tatuanui farmer Hans Geessink’s farm. Trees dotted across the farm attract native birds, provide shade for cows and add character to the farm.

Tatuanui School principal Denise Jones said the students run the nursery as a small business. They manage every aspect, including buying and growing grasses and seedlings to sell to the community.

“The students learn about sustainability, science and financial literacy. They budget and decide what to spend their profits on. So far, they have contributed to developing the school’s native bush area to attract native birds, and we’re upgrading the playground.”

Dairy farmer Kirsty Verhoek, left, hosted kids and parents from Tatuanui School for a fun day during which they helped plant 1000 native sedge grasses alongside a farm waterway.

Tatuanui School is part of the Enviroschools programme, where young people are empowered to design and lead sustainability projects in their schools and communities nationwide.

Tatua Co-operative Dairy Company and Rabobank sponsor the nursery and join school planting days.

DairyNZ environmental specialist and Tatuanui dairy farmer Johan van Ras came up with the nursery idea, after he and his family planted both sides of one of their farm waterways with native sedge grasses. He wanted to get the whole community involved in riparian planting to help enhance water quality. 

Van Ras said native sedge grasses are great because they reduce erosion, provide shade for fish and help improve biodiversity in and out of the water.

He is a Dairy Environment Leader, one of nearly 400 dairy farmers nationwide committed to supporting the sector’s work to reduce environmental footprint.

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