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Welcome . . . Enviroschools co-ordinators from Canterbury, South Canterbury, Southland, Dunedin, Central Otago and Waitaki gathered in Oamaru last week for a regional hui. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The environmental action taken by Waitaki’s Enviroschools is up there with the best in the lower South Island.

That was one of many things Waitaki Enviroschools facilitator Bron Claridge took away from an inter-regional hui held in Oamaru for Enviroschools last week.

About 16 co-ordinators from Canterbury, Dunedin, Central Otago, Southland and Waitaki gathered in Oamaru for the inter-regional hui, which included meetings and visits to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and Waitaki District Council.

It was also an opportunity to get inspiration from other Enviroschools across the lower South Island.

Enviroschools has been running nationwide for about 20 years and Mrs Claridge has been in her Waitaki District Council-funded role since it was established in March last year.

There are 12 official Enviroschools in Waitaki.

“The schools that are in it love it – and we’ve got more schools knocking on the door wanting to join,” she said.

“Every school is doing stuff – like their gardens, like their chooks – but Enviroschools just gives it a structure and an umbrella to sit underneath.”

The environmental action-based programme involved so much more than just picking up rubbish, she said.

Guiding principles for Enviroschools were: sustainable communities, empowered students, learning for sustainability, respect for diversity, Maori perspectives and holistic reflection.

“It’s about looking after your community and being part of your community,” she said.

At Weston School, pupils led a project to get more sustainable packaging for weekly lunch deliveries from Midori.

The Oamaru restaurant got on board and now the pupils’ lunches arrive in cardboard and bio-plastics.

“The pride in themselves that they’ve made this change, they’ve made it happen, is pretty cool,” Mrs Claridge said.

Weston School had also formed a kapa haka group this year.

“Kapa haka has been shown to improve learning . . . and it has been really empowering for the kids.”

Waitaki Enviroschools was growing and the movement was well-supported by the council, she said.

“We’re setting up a fund for schools to apply to as well . . . for anything that’s going to help reduce waste in the school or community, or educate about it,” she said.