In February of this year Gareth and a crew of 50 Kiwis set sail south to raise awareness of Our Far South – the incredible area south of Stewart Island. New Zealand has stewardship over a massive area of land and ocean almost uninterrupted down to the South Pole. This area is ours, it has a wealth of wildlife, is the engine room of the world’s climate and oceans, and it is possible to visit for no more than the cost of a European holiday. To find out more about the region and the issues facing it, see the book special in this issue of Morgan Online.
Since the crew returned, they have been out spreading the news amongst their communities about Our Far South. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the whole project has been the incredible response from schools. So far the crew have presented to around 25,000 school children. Kids of all ages from new entrants to Year 13 have been entranced by the incredible wildlife and scenery of the area. One school, Limehills even rewrote the lyrics of a popular song in honour of the voyage.
The kids have also responded to the issues facing the region. Our southern islands are like life rafts for the creatures of this area, but we have left pests on them and it is up to us to get the pests off. That is why kids have got behind the Million Dollar Mouse campaign, which is aiming to raise $1m to wipe mice, the only remaining predator, from the Antipodes Island. The children have developed a bond with the native bird life of Our Far South, and have got in behind the movement to make the subantarctic islands (and maybe one day the whole of New Zealand) pest free so that our birds have safe places to rest, breed and feed. One class, Room 10 from Otatara School in Invercargill, singlehandedly raised $560 (so far!).
The response from our youngest citizens has been outstanding, which is why Gareth plans to keep working with them in the future. Next year he has projects planned on how we protect our oceans and pest eradication, both of which will involve schools. And of course the new Wellington Phoenix mascot Nixie will also be out and about in the schools promoting soccer, healthy eating and exercise. It is looking like an exciting year ahead.