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Class act: Forrest Hill pupils lobby for Lake Pupuke

Flagstaff Team

Primary pupils are doing their bit for the local environment and learning about democracy in action with an ambitious petition to Parliament to protect the site of their Waterwise classes

Speaking out… Forrest Hill School students Ella Ahn and Max Yates talk about their class petition

Forrest Hill School pupils are taking a project to protect Lake Pupuke to Parliament.

They are circulating a petition which calls on the House of Representatives to pass legislation formally placing Lake Pupuke within the protection of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

“We try to mold the curriculum into the world that is around the tamariki,” Year 6 teacher Aaron Joyes said. “Lake Pupuke is so important to the schools of the area.

“It’s a really good way to open the door of te ao Maori (Maori culture) to the students. It is the te ao approach to learning.”

North Shore MP Simon Watts has agreed to sponsor the petition in Parliament.

The pupils have been researching the condition of the lake. Before lockdown they were also presenting to other schools.

“Like many of you, we have had some awesome times learning how to sail, kayak and swim in Lake Pupuke as part of our Waterwise programme,” they said in their presentations. “But lately we have noticed a change in the mauri of the lake.”

They were worried about the lake’s health and wanted to do something about it.

The students have interviewed public figures and others about Pupuke, including Auckland Council Environment Committee chairman and North Shore councillor Richard Hillls, Tom Rowlands from the Auckland Museum, Dean Ogilvy and Alex Rogers from the Hauraki Gulf Forum and representatives from the Aotearoa Lakes organisation. Daisy Proctor from the council’s Sustainable Schools initiative taught them how to test the health of the lake water.

Joyes said the real-life experience of students, such as seeing a dead swan floating on the water “makes that environmental leadership message really real for them.

“They’re getting to stand up and take environmental and civic action in front of their community.”

The project’s name, Pupuke Taniwha – meaning Guardians of Lake Pupuke – had been given the blessing of Ngati Paoa kaumatua, Joyes said. “The backing of mana whenua is really important”.

The petition closes on 30 November. It had 1100 signatures on paper by last week and 53 signatures on the Parliament website.

It states that Lake Pupuke and the public parks that surround it would benefit from being formally included in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, as the managers of the lake and surrounding public land would then have to consider the purposes of the Marine Park. This would lead to “greater recognition of the significance of the lake and land, including the historic and cultural significance for mana whenua; increased protection for the ecology and natural features; and sustenance of the lake’s life-supporting capacity”.

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