By Lucy Hardy, DOC Volunteering Coordinator | Kaiwhiriwhiri Tuao
This week is National Volunteer Week. It's a time to acknowledge the great contribution volunteers make to conservation. The whakatauki (proverb) for National Volunteer Week refers to the cooperation or combination of resources to get ahead:
Naku to rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te tangata
With your contribution and my contribution the people will live
Ki Uta Ki Tai volunteers paddling the waka
The volunteers involved with the Ki Uta Ki Tai programme make a huge contribution to conservation in the Karitane area.
Based on the Otago coast, Ki Uta Ki Tai is a week-long community and volunteer conservation experience. It is supported and hosted by Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki and the Karitane community.
Whanaungatanga lies at the heart of Ki Uta Ki Tai.
The programme has been running for three years and came out of a practical need to find some fresh willing volunteers to lend their support to local community organisations.
The River-Estuary Care: Waikouaiti-Karitane group received a grant for trees and realised they needed a conservation flash mob to get the plants in the ground.
"We would receive occasional individual offers of help, of which we were very grateful, but wanted to move towards a model where we could achieve something bigger for the effort we put in" – Joel Vanderburg, River-Estuary Care: Waikouaiti-Karitane
Volunteers re-potting native seedlings
Participating in Ki Uta Ki Tai
Over the years, participants in Ki Uta Ki Tai have monitored the marine and coastal environment for the East Otago Taiapure, and planted native plants in the wider catchment. They have worked alongside River-Estuary Care: Waikouaiti-Karitane, Hawksbury Lagoon Society, and at Huriawa and around the marae with Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki.
Ki Uta Ki Tai volunteers monitoring the Karitane coastline
Volunteers have undertaken weed control, participated in beach clean-ups and re-potted native plants for future restoration work.
All the component activities of Ki Uta Ki Tai are developed around environmental issues identified by the community. There is collective responsibility for the success of the week.
Everyone who participates in Ki Uta Ki Tai does so as a volunteer. This includes organising the programmes, providing billeting for participants, sharing knowledge of the land, providing kai for willing workers, or organising activities such as waka ama and harakeke raranga.
This brings a special feel to the programme and the volunteers get a sense of kinship and belonging.
"Typically the weather is terrible for our volunteer programme - we've had blizzards, downpours, you name it... but it adds to the experience and helps to strengthen the bonds of friendship that develop during the week." – Patti Vanderburg, River-Estuary Care: Waikouaiti-Karitane
Working together with Otago University
Ki Uta Ki Tai volunteers from Otago University have fun in the rain
More recently, students from Otago University School of Physical Education and Te Tumu, Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies have participated in Ki Uta Ki Tai.
There's already a strong connection between the University and the East Otago Taiapure, with students undertaking applied research on customary fisheries.
Lecturer Anne-Marie Jackson has seen the value of the students' undertaking this research, both to the students and the Karitane community, and was keen to incorporate Ki Uta Ki Tai into her Level 4 paper.
Student volunteers undertake cockle surveys with Chris Hepburn, of the East Otago Taiapure Management Committee
Student Chanel Philips coordinated the April 2014 week as part of her Masters research on Maori cultural practices such as kaitiakitanga and mahinga kai. It's been a rewarding experience for Chanel to learn how to deliver a successful conservation volunteer project with the support of the Ki Uta Ki Tai whanau.
This most recent Ki Uta Ki Tai week involved a noho marae, or marae stay.
"The noho adds to the whanaungatanga and wananga. The marae provides the structure, everyone stays together and eats together, we learn from one another and share together... the programme strengthens connections to nature for those that participate, particularly the young people" – Brendan Flack, East Otago Taiapure and Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki
Benefits for the Karitane community
The programme originated in simple conservation actions but now the organisers of Ki Uta Ki Tai recognise the social and cultural implications of their conservation work.
It is also a way for older members of the community conservation groups to pass on their knowledge to a younger audience. Ki Uta Ki Tai is revitalising community conservation participation for a new generation and strengthening community bonds in Karitane.
Volunteers exploring the Waikouaiti estuary by kayak