Aparima pupils working to keep New Zealand beautiful

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Aparima College pupils (from left) Maleesha Gamage (14) and Jake Haare-Black (12) hold some of the seedlings which will be planted as part of the school's tree project, while Courtney Loveridge (17) and deputy head boy Dom Riddell (17) hold a waste reduction bin among the heritage apple trees at the rear of the college grounds.

HELPING to keep New Zealand beautiful, pupils from Riverton’s Aparima College have taken on many environmental projects.

These included growing vegetables and setting up a soup kitchen, the Treemendous Planting Day planting hundreds of native trees and 16 heritage fruit trees, the Less Plastics Recycling project, beach surveys on litter and taking part in community rubbish clean-ups.

For their efforts, they were selected as one of three finalists in the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards section, with the others being Murchison Area School, Murchison, and Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, Christchurch.

Run by Keep New Zealand Beautiful, the Beautiful Awards celebrated the environmental excellence of communities, businesses, schools and individuals in New Zealand.

Aparima College teacher Lynne Grove said although the school had been actively involved in a broad range of environment projects since 2017, the pupils had three main projects under way, including The Tree Project, waste reduction projects and the food gardens.

The removal of a large stand of old macrocarpa trees from the school grounds in 2017 was the catalyst to begin creating a sustainability plan, which had expanded during three years to include the whole school and surrounding community, she said.

Part of the project involved setting up a student-led EnviroCouncil to guide and report on the enviro activities.

This year, despite the Covid-19 situation, pupils had increased their learning about sustainability which they translated into practise, she said.

Since August last year, pupils had planted hundreds of native shrubs and trees, with the assistance of Environment Southland, South Coast Environment Centre in Riverton and Te Runaga o Oraka Aparima, as part of The Tree Project, she said.

Waste reduction projects included the school’s Plastics Recycling Project, supported by Keep NZ Beautiful, Litter Intelligence Surveys, supported by Sustainable Coastlines, and the Big Cleanup, supported by WasteNet Southland.

Mrs Grove said as well as teaching pupils how to “sustainably” grow vegetables, the school’s food gardens also supplied vegetables for the soup kitchen.

“We are about to launch a larger garden project to learn to grow local varieties and to help with local food supply, which will be supported by EnviroSchools and our College Board of Trustees.”

Year 10 pupil Maleesha Gamage (14) helped plant native trees in the area where the macrocarpa trees had been as part of the weekly environment elective, as well as rubbish surveys along the beach and at the soup kitchen.

Described as “a very enthusiastic tree-planter”, Year 8 pupil Jake Haare-Black (12) said “it was hard to dig among the broom” to plant the trees.

Seeing all the planted trees, head girl Courtney Loveridge (17) said “this space has already been transformed into something beautiful.

“When we come back in a couple of years’ time, it will be more transformed… the space is not finished, it is an ongoing project.”

Deputy head boy Dom Riddell (17) was in charge of the photography of the school’s projects and was making a 30-second video as part of the school’s finals entry.

The winners of all categories, including town and city categories, communities, businesses, individuals and schools will be announced in Auckland at the end of next month.

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