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Some of this year’s Seagull Centre grant recipients. Among the applicants were a wide range of environmental projects, many aimed at or initiated by youth. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

Environment grants to be put to good use

Seagull Centre Trustees were thrilled to see a number of youth-focused applications among this year’s requests for their annual community grants round.

A total of $16,000 of grant money was distributed between 19 different environmental-focused projects, with each project receiving between $500 and $1000. 

Among the project applicants was 12-year-old Mara Gumbley from Hikutaia School. 

“Around the back of the school there’s a small bit of bush and it’s quite overgrown,” Mara said. 

“We were wanting to make it an outdoor classroom by weeding it, taking all the trash that’s been dumped there out, and putting information panels and birdhouses and bug hotels – so that it’s a spot where hopefully it will attract native species, and just so you can be out there chilling in nature.” 

Hikutaia school teacher Sam Fenton said she was impressed with Mara’s initiative. 

“Mara’s application was incredible. She’d done a really good job on it, and it was all from her,” Sam said. 

“And this term our [learning] focus has been on that turangawaewae and kaitiakitanga [connection and protection of the natural environment]  … and that was part of the grant so it’s great.” 

Another grant recipient was the Predator Free Hauraki Coromandel Community Trust. Thames High School student Levi Wilson was accepting the grant on behalf of his father Phil. He said he and his brothers would be helping with the Pauanui-based project. 

“We’re going to be planting a lot more tussock grasses around the lakes so the [native brown teal ducks] can be more protected from predators, and they can lay their eggs,” Levi said. 

The brown teal duck or pāteke is one of New Zealand’s rarest waterfowl, with fewer than 2,5000 remaining in the wild. 

Levi said his dad’s trapping and conservation efforts had seen the number of brown teals in Pauanui increase, and they wanted to help them survive. 

“At first we had one brown teal … then a pair of brown teals came along and now they’re breeding. It’s good because they’re very rare ducks,” he said. 

Seagull Centre Trust chairperson Ian Coatsworth said many of this year’s projects were for the benefit of younger people. 

“We’ve got a scout group, we’ve got a lot of schools and early childhood centres involved this year,” he said. 

“It’s just neat that the money will be [helping] the kids doing the work, you know, planting and growing and eating. That’s always a really nice thing.”

RECIPIENTS: Te Puru School for sand dune restoration; Thames Coast Community Kindergarten for gardens and water; Thames High School for community hangi baskets; Thames South School for compost bins and a garden; Thames Early Childhood Centre to grow fruit trees; Central Kids to develop a garden; Pauanui Predator Free to plant native grasses for wildlife; Thames Scout group for a garden and fruit trees; Deb MacDonald Brown to plant native trees; Laurie Mango for beach cleanup and art pieces; Te Mata Jasmine Death Squad to remove wild flowering jasmine vines; Hikutaia School for an outdoor classroom; Moanataiari School for a pātaka kai and outdoor planting area; the Ngakau committee for carving; Wetlands Restoration to save the bittern and plant in the wetlands; Thames Coast Kiwi Care for signage; and Rosalie Howard for the creation of worm farms. 

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air