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Green job scheme a boost

Some of the Whangai Repo participants who worked extensively on the conservation of Wairarapa Moana wetlands. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

ARTHUR HAWKES
[email protected]

Ten unemployed people from Wairarapa have just finished a nine-week programme to help build their skills in conservation.

Under the ‘green jobs’ initiative funded by the Social Development Ministry, the Conservation Department, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council, the participants were paid a stipend.

Last week marked the end of the inaugural programme, which aimed to boost job opportunities that would benefit the natural world.

“They were really motivated and worked really hard,” DOC Wairarapa ranger Jim Flack said.

“They completely got into what they were doing … a lot of them felt a real connection with Wairarapa Moana, particularly people that had lived in Wairarapa their whole lives, but hadn’t had much to do with it before.”

Called Whangai Repo, the programme started in August under the government’s Jobs for Nature scheme, employing 10 jobseekers from Wairarapa, all paid the New Zealand living wage.

Over the course of the work, they developed practical skills and experience in conservation management.

Two of the people employed on the conservation jobs programme.

Whangai Repo focused on enabling those involved to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest and to increase the number of qualified individuals in the region.

Phil Rutene, work broker at the ministry, said the programme was about nurturing the growing number of professionals in environmental roles.

“It aims to upskill keen individuals, so if they wish to continue their career in a conservation field, there will be additional support provided to get people into full-time roles.”

GWRC and DOC led the employment and training of the participants, in skills such as environmental restoration, cultural connections, pest management, research, monitoring, and environmental education.

Adrienne Staples, GWRC Wairarapa committee chairwoman, detailed the work the group undertook on the wetlands.

“[They] have been undertaking mahi around Wairarapa Moana Wetlands to help deliver on project objectives to restore the health of the wetlands.

“The moana is a fitting location to appreciate the connection te taiao [nature] has to a wider holistic, cultural, and community health – which serves as a key context to any conservation work.”

GWRC biodiversity adviser Toby Barach said that the group had done a considerable amount of work.

“They planted an impressive 1650 native trees around wetland margins, and set up a pest animal control network of 36 traps to control wild cats, mustelids, hedgehogs, and rats.”

The structure of the programme provided a combination of practical onsite experience and relationship development for the aspiring conservationists.

Andrea Rutene, DOC community supervisor, said the trial was part of a wider restoration initiative.

“Thanks to the big push from the government with Mahi mo te Taiao [Jobs for Nature], we can begin channelling such resources into protecting and restoring taonga like the Wairarapa Moana wetlands.”

With the success of the trial, it was likely that more such work programmes would be undertaken, particularly with the boom in green job funding outlined in Budget 2020.

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