One of the great things about the Otago Peninsula is the way that local people are willing to pitch in to make their community a better place. This is never more evident than at the Keep Dunedin Beautiful Awards held at the Library today. Among the many worthy winners from a multitude of community groups and individuals the Otago Peninsula gave a great account of itself. There is a visible determination among all of the winners from the Peninsula to contribute in any way they can. “Adopt a Spot” award winner Barbara Smith picks up rubbish from around Highcliff Road, one of the region’s most scenic roads. While Robert George who has kept Macandrew Bay township free of litter from many years won an appreciation award from the National Keep NZ Beautiful organisation for his many years work. All of the Peninsula award recipients have not shied away from hard work and seeing pupils from Portobello School accept that mantle too is very heartening for our community. As the Otago Peninsula Community Board’s representative on Keep Dunedin Beautiful it makes me proud to see that we have people in our community willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that is always out there.
One of the great things about living on the Otago Peninsula and having children at a local school is you get to do some of the cool things that they do as well. I was one of two parents who took a group of children from Portobello School to Okia Reserve for “World Ranger Day” with the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust. Getting children out of the classroom and providing a genuine ranger experience was a great concept, but having pupils from the three Peninsula schools was pure genius. Like it or not there is a need for conservation groups to be prepared to pass on the mantle of stewardship onto a younger generation, and the earlier we do this the better. Peninsula kids are very fortunate that they grow up in a landscape inhabited by iconic wildlife species. We can only hope that this experience and their own inquiry will develop either empathetic citizens or active conservationists.
What I really enjoyed about the ranger day was the hands on activities that provided a genuine wildlife management experience. From exercises in measuring and identifying birds, to pest control and habitat creation, each activity was designed to show what really needs to be done in wildlife conservation. So much of what actually goes on in the field is unknown to the public, and to be able to provide that experience for our school children was a great experience. I’m sure many of the pupils will share their experience with their parents and family.
After events like this there’s always time to pause and reflect on some of the things that you take away from them. One of the big issues that stands out for me is how much the Peninsula relies on voluntary organisations and citizen conservationists to protect and advocate for our wildlife and landscape. The voluntary hours, fundraising and hard work put into places like Okia is quite staggering, and that is both comforting and concerning at the same time. It also highlights my view that the Peninsula Community Board has an important role to act as advocates and supporters for conservation groups in our district. That means using policy, planning and financial forums to ensure this critical work can continue on the Peninsula. After my experience at Okia it’s not difficult to understand just how important that role is and how rewarding it can be for our children today and in the future.