Making a DOC 200 stoat trap is not easy. Just ask students from Coastal Taranaki Area School, Manukorihi and Devon intermediate schools.

Students from Manukorihi Intermediate and Coastal Taranaki Area School who participate in the New Horizons Aotearoa program.

Since 2018, when New Horizons Aotearoa joined Taranaki Mounga, about 60 Year 7 and 8 students have done what many people cannot when they mastered trap building.

This after-school mentoring programme uses building as a platform to lift students’ confidence while opening their eyes to Taranaki’s natural environment. Students are selected by their schools to participate in the programme.

New Horizons Aotearoa Founder and Patron Kere Ell says all students and mentors learn about the Taranaki Mounga Project and its vision for the future.

Students have made 70 traps, half of which have been set to trap predators in Blue Rata Reserve.

“To see the look on their faces and to see how proud they were of their efforts was awesome,” says Kere. “They could see first-hand they were doing their part in helping to bring back birdlife to our Mounga while enjoying immensely an environment they might not ordinarily experience.”

In 2019 two programme were run at the schools and the 2018 classes were rewarded for their efforts with an invitation to a kiwi release on the Mounga.

Taranaki Mounga DOC Ranger Tama Blackburn has been working with the students and has seen first-hand the confidence they have gained.

“It’s so cool to see all generations coming together for a great cause! We have a shared vision of becoming predator-free and we are watching the revitalisation of our native species for the next generations to enjoy,” says Tama. “The knowledge sharing between our elderly, parents and students is priceless and I feel privileged to share my knowledge of conservation with them.”

New Horizons Aotearoa pupils have also supported their local communities and partnered with Red Cross to build ‘buddy benches’, which encourage student connection and reduce isolation. The benches were given to six Taranaki schools. This year Manukorihi Intermediate students are building two benches for Owae Marae and Devon Intermediate students are building picnic tables for their school.

Kere is grateful to all involved and to those who donated their time to the programme.

“Thank you to Taranaki Mounga for providing another opportunity for our students to grow as future leaders and to help to make a difference,” says Kere.

“Also a big mihi to partner schools, Jean Sandel Retirement Village, our mentors, ITM Building Supplies New Plymouth for supplying materials and support, Bishop’s Action Foundation, TSB Community Trust and all the teachers and whānau involved.”