Volunteering  |  17 Jun 2024

Nurturing nature in the red zone is where you’ll find Riccarton High students George and Emma each week.

Rain or shine, the pair spend their Friday mornings mulching, uncovering hidden plants and picking up rubbish in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor (ŌARC).

George and Emma belong to Riccarton High School’s Kohanga Ako class, which is purpose built for students with special education needs.

As part of the class’s work experience programme, the students collaborate with the Council Parks team, volunteering their time and contributing to the red zone regeneration.

20-year-old George, who started volunteering due to his passion for the outdoors, has an eagle eye for spotting small pieces of rubbish to be collected or plants in need of releasing.

“It’s cool to get away from the classroom and spend time outside,” George says. 

“I like using the Parks tools to pick up rubbish, it makes it a lot easier to keep the place clean.”

18-year-old Emma, on the other hand, has developed a keen love for the environment and after months of practice has mastered the art of mulching.

“I search for treasure when I’m looking around too, but so far have just come across old concrete!” Emma says.

Learning on the job is all part of the experience, as the students develop skills and experience to help them into the work force.

Last year, the pair brought the full Kohanga Ako class down to help with planting season, proudly showing their classmates around the area.

Council Community Partnership Ranger Sarah Mankelow says the work is a two-way street, providing valuable experience while regenerating the area.

“It’s a huge help for us having these students work in the ŌARC, and after months on site they’re experienced enough that they can occasionally work unsupervised,” Sarah says.

“Maintenance is such an important part of red zone regeneration, and we’re grateful to have a helping hand while providing workplace experience.”

Maintenance days are advertised on the Council’s website, and the Council is always looking for volunteers to help. Find out how to get involved here.