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Growing properties . . . Totara School pupils planted their own flaxes after learning about their benefits at the Waitaki Community Gardens last week. From left are Storm Taylor (10), Manon Tartonne (11), Amelie Tartonne (9), Eryn Buckley (9) and Daniel Clarke (12). PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

A pilot programme has been teaching Waitaki children the importance of their native plants.

Totara School pupils learned about the properties of flax, or harakeke, at the Waitaki Community Gardens last week.

The programme came to fruition through community discussions between North Otago Sustainable Land Management (Noslam), the gardens and schools on extending children’s knowledge of nature.

Pupils learned how flax supports the environment and planted their own flaxes in pots they designed with positive messages.

They each took a flax back to school, and will nurture it until it is ready to be replanted on Rihi Schultz’s land, near the Waitaki River.

Pupil Storm Taylor (12), enjoyed creating the designs on her plant’s pot and learned more about the developing flax industry.

“.. How the plastic industry has taken over from the harakeke industry – it’s actually a really strong plant.”

Noslam engagement officer Bridget McNally, who supported the programme, was happy with the response from the children to the programme.

“The kids have been fizzing .. they’ve got such cool sayings on their pots. They’ve been so engaged and learning about the irrigation systems here too,” she said.

The programme had key environmental aspects, but it also aimed to help children understand their identities.

“It’s about children learning how to propagate and where they come from – it’s that understanding and the therapeutic nature of doing it.”

Waitaki Community Gardens native propagator Natalie Carpenter taught the session, and said it helped connect children with the environment.

“The idea is to start from seed, all the way to planting, and that pride in the fact they are growing too, and giving them some responsibility.”

There were opportunities to learn about various native plants in the future, but flax was a good starting point, due to its cultural significance.