Locals enjoy Manukau Harbour in kayaks
On a sunny Sunday morning in October 2020 Friends of the Farm (FoF) in Māngere Bridge collaborated with the non-profit group Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) to co-host three separate kayak trips on the Manukau Harbour. Fifty-two people took part in a one and half hour trip; there were old and young, people of diverse cultures, and 85% were Māngere Bridge residents.
Established in 2012, FoF has a vision of a Caring, Connected, Wastewise Māngere BridgeCommunity. The link between the two groups came about through FoF member EllaWalmsley who is also involved with EMR. “I saw an opportunity to enable Māngere Bridge children to experience a kayak trip and their local marine environment first-hand,” said Ella. “FoF is always looking for new ways to encourage local residents to deepen their relationship with our natural environment and help look after it. Our vision of a wastewise community depends on everyone helping to look after their/our patch. Also, Covid-19 restrictions have been a really tough on families and the idea of having fun was very appealing!”
Recognising shared values, EMR jumped at the chance to work with FoF. EMR empowers schools and communities by providing hands-on experience in the ocean. Their goal is to raise awareness, understanding and support for marine conservation across New Zealand through dynamic experiential education opportunities. Since 2002, more than 50,000 Kiwis have participated in EMR events.
“EMR’s active focus on community engagement and marine conservation was a good fit with the conservation and community focus of Friends of the Farm. Also, this was the first time we had held an event on the Manukau,” said Lorna Doogan, EMR Coordinator, “Our thanks to Auckland Sea Kayaks for supplying the kayaks and supporting the event”.
On the day EMR were on site early with their trailers full of kayaks and equipment. By 10.00am their tent was set up and the tables in place with activities, promotional material and sign-in clipboards ready and Lorna was leading a safety briefing for EMR volunteers.
EMR is an adventure activity safety audit certified organisation (AAO534), so they came with a strong safety focus. FoF members staffed their info table during the day, talking to participants and others ambling by about their vision and community-led initiatives.
Lorna began each session with a warm greeting in te reo Māori, then FoF member Jane Gravestock welcomed people and talked about FoF’s work in the community including our efforts to build connections to the environment and reduce waste.
After a health and safety briefing, groups put on their lifejackets, launched their kayaks into the harbour and set for a wonderful experience.
“The event was a special opportunity to be out on the water and see our community, farm and maunga from the Harbour. The organisation of EMR was very impressive and it was great to partner with them to extend this opportunity to our community,” said FoF co-chair Frances Hancock.
Other feedback was enthusiastic and appreciative. People said they felt safe because the guides were so well-equipped and experienced. News spread quickly and afterwards other residents posted messages on the FoF Facebook page saying they want to attend the next Kayak Day. “It was an excellent opportunity for locals to build a heart connection to the Manukau Harbour,” observed FoF wastewise educator Caroline Walmsley. “We want to increase awareness that will lead to people taking action to care for the area and reduce household and business waste. EMR’s displays, activities and general approach were informative and inspiring. Several of the children taking part were fascinated by the display of the trays of water and plants from the Whitebait Connection and enjoyed fossicking in them to see the living organisms present.”
FOF plans to build on this successful pilot and in 2021 plans to co-host another day with EMR. This was a novel way to promote wastewise messages and enable more residents to deepen their heart connection with their surroundings.