When you hear the classic; “adventure is out there” - do you believe it? Well, for the collective group of 80 assembled here at the Sir Peter Blake Trust’s 13th Annual Youth EnviroLeaders’ Forum, it most certainly is! This whole experience so far, and will continue to be, nothing short of one of the most positive, engaging and environmentally stimulating occasions of our teenage lives. It’s not the fact that we’re, quite literally, up and running from 06:30 in the morning. Or the absolute plethora of food available to us that’s drawing our attention. It’s the day-to-day experiences that the Trust and members of the wider Nelson and New Zealand Community have been generous enough to give us.
As a group, we were told from the very get-go that some of the friendships that you make on YELF can last lifetimes. And maybe, just maybe, we’re beginning to realise exactly what Hannah and Shelley were on about. In saying that, we’re not, or at least I’m not, too sure about the label of the “best YELF singing group ever” - which began with some pretty solid waiata practice this morning. Albeit slightly out of tune - our rendition of ‘Te Aroha’ came across as slickly as our new media relations skills acquired (thanks to the OG Isobel Ewing and Sally Paterson) - but we’ll be touching on that later.
Now as a collective group of 80 odd individuals - we’re effectively guests in the Nelson/Tasman region. And as guests - we were extremely kindly and generally received by the Tangata whenua of Whakatū Marae. Learning some of the cultural beliefs of the Māori people(s) - of the land, of the Earth, of the importance of storytelling in preservation of history. Additionally to this - we were also treated to speakers such as Vicky Robertson, the Secretary for the Environment at the Ministry for the Environment and Mike Ward from Nelson City Council - who “isn’t very good at following instructions” - really served as role-models, if you will, for environmental preservation and change in their wider and local communities. Talking about how conservation and economics aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive entities, which seems to be a misconception pretty prevalent throughout New Zealand. NOT ONLY were the folks at Whakatū Marae kind enough to welcome us onto the place of their ancestors - they also catered to us all in a massive hangi lunch.
After we’d been fed up enough to please even the Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread witch – the legendary vans (and of course the banter bus) approached once more to whisk us away to Brook Waimarama Sanctuary. Now this community driven initiative has been on-the-go since 2004 - working to create a pest-free wildlife sanctuary close to Nelson City Centre. We’re talking a 14km fence surrounding the entirety of the sanctuary, to not only enclose the area itself - but to eradicate all pest mammals within it. This bad-boy of a sanctuary is 715 hectares of awesome - getting stuck into by the Nelson community of 300+ volunteers and 5 sanctuary staff who work TIRELESSLY to recreate a native ecosystem filled with native birds, reptiles and invertebrates that may have previously been non-existent in the area - how sick is that? All of this is only possible thanks to partnership between the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary and DOC, Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council, Lottery Grants, Cawthron Institute, NMIT and WWF. More funding is always needed however, so if you’d be keen - do the folks at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary a solid by purchasing a dedicated fence post in the construction of their pest-proof fence for only $100!! This was of course followed by a cute wee mish through the bush of the reserve. As ‘hippie-ish’ as this sounds; everyone seems to be on pretty much the same wave length here. But don’t worry - we’re not quite off to Woodstock 2.0 just yet.
But when you’re talking YELF and the Sir Peter Blake Trust - you’re talking ‘go hard or go home’. We didn’t stop there for the day, not even close ladies and gentlemen. No. Subsequent to an absolute ripper of a dinner, the media dream team of the Trust’s very own Sally Paterson accompanied by Mediawork’s Isobel Ewing and the infamous Neil McKenzie, photographer extraordinaire set up not only a media workshop for us - but a series of group challenges and presentations as well. Effectively - we were bombarded with knowledge from field experts, coming away with messages such as “love not loss” in media presentation, how NPOs manage to receive advertising throughout the mainstream media and how photography really shapes our understanding, or at least interpretation of an event. The challenge - to make an environmental pitch from a media perspective, taught us many things:
1: How to work cohesively in a unit full of leaders - sometimes leading is knowing when to take a step back and let others take the lead
2: Our interpretation of events is primarily dependent upon the ‘spin’ established by first-response media
3: Michael has a fantastic Isobel Ewing impression and looks positively SALACIOUS in a skirt.
Nah - but in all honesty, I’m doing a fairly rubbish job in amalgamating and summarising the events of today. But I’d like for you to take away a couple of thing at the very least from reading this blogpost:
1. Change needs to be collective for it to be effective
As we learnt today, each and every individual has the capability to contribute to not only environmental change in their community, but any kind of change in this nation as a whole. If you have an objective, or a goal, you are FULLY capable of creating it. Get people behind you, supporting your idea. And TOGETHER, as a collective unit, your idea should come into effect. Mahi Tahi – work as one.
2. Youth Leaders ARE the future of New Zealand
Yeah - it’s all very ‘fine and dandy’ to say ‘one day, you’ll be taking over this country’. But we have youth leaders emerging and popping-up left, right and centre in this country. The forum’s pretty evident of this fact. More emphasis, such as the work from the team at the Sir Peter Blake Trust, needs to be placed on the development of youth leadership.
3. Don’t drink 6 mochas in one day (even though the machine is just there)
This one might just be pretty self-explanatory…
Cheers team, I hope that you enjoy following our adventure - because it really is out there. And ours is only just beginning!