Intern relished her time with council

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When Danielle van Duin was looking for an internship opportunity in Australia or New Zealand, she had never heard of the global geopark movement.

But as she was being interviewed for a role at the Waitaki District Council last year, the concept piqued her interest and she has dedicated a large part of the past six months to researching the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark’s social licence to operate.

The 21-year-old Dutch intern left Oamaru on Sunday after almost six months on the Waitaki District Council internship programme, an initiative of chief executive Fergus Power that has attracted university students from around the globe to fill voluntary roles at the council.

Ms van Duin has a bachelor of international business administration from Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Waitaki District Council internship was an opportunity for her to gain project-based work experience.

“I was looking to do something with sustainability in businesses,” she said.

“Waitaki District Council were the first to contact me, then I had an interview with Fergus and it all sounded really cool.”

She knew very little about the Waitaki district before arriving here, but said she had fallen in love with the district’s landscape and relished the opportunities presented to her through the council programme.

Doing an internship in provincial New Zealand led to more real experiences, she said.

“It’s a really cool experience to be in such a small town, especially with the Victorian vibe,” she said.

“It’s just so beautiful here – I’m definitely going to miss the scenery.”

Her internship had covered four different projects, with a specific focus on the Whitestone Waitaki Geopark.

“I was basically hired to research social licence to operate, the approval of the community and stakeholders of the geopark project – to find out what the community thinks of the geopark,” she said.

Her research took about four months and she had produced a strategy and survey for the council, which she hoped would be put to good use in the future.

She also took over running the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Instagram account, posting photos to promote the geopark bid and showcase the district’s unique attractions and landscape, and grew its following from 50 to more than 1300 in just a few months.

After discovering the council bought about 6000 disposable cups last year, with the additional disposal of takeaway cups from local cafes in their bins, she also put together a proposal to council to reduce its waste.

“I contacted the waste department and they said they had been wanting to do it for a long time, but had no-one to actually do it,” she said.

Ms van Duin’s proposal to supply council staff with reusable cups was approved by the executive board at the end of December and she had designed and ordered 300 Waitaki District Council-branded KeepCups which would arrive in a few weeks time.

Next year, she hoped to do a business-related masters degree in Holland, probably focusing on business and sustainability, or something like industrial ecology – a study of industrial systems with the goal of finding ways to lessen their environmental impact.