Environment Southland


From the river to the sea

Enviroschools Programme

The Enviroschools programme supports children and young people to plan, design and implement sustainability actions that are important to them and their communities. Ongoing reflection is an essential part of the Enviroschools journey, and there are three reflection stages - Bronze, Silver and Green-Gold.

Otama School

The Mataura River is a recreational playground and a living classroom for the children and young people of Otama School.

Situated approximately 20 kilometres north-west of Gore, the school has been supporting students to care for, and study the Mataura River for some time now; learning invaluable lessons about the environment and life. The first school in Southland to be awarded with the EnviroSchools' Green-Gold status, Otama School successfully demonstrated that sustainability is an integral part of all of their decisions and school life.

"We're a sustainable school. We do our own paper recycling, we make sure there are no weeds in the garden, and we make our own compost," says Christopher, a Year 8 student. "We enjoy doing stream studies too; catching bugs, studying them, and putting them back. There's lots of stuff to learn down there [at the river]."

In recognition of all their environmental work around the Mataura River, Otama School recently won the Otago-Southland Aquavan grand prize. This saw the school travel to Portobello, Otago and visit the University of Otago's Marine Lab. Otama School principal Samuel Smith says the trip was instrumental in connecting their river studies to the bigger picture.

"The river is a good subject to base a lot of learning around. Having it close by means having the opportunity to engage with it. It's good for the kids to have a connection with their surroundings. They can also learn about the consequences of their actions, through the metaphor of the river being connected with the sea," he says.

The benefits of their sustainability efforts extend further than the environment too. "It gives them something to be proud of, a point of difference. And it's great to have that sense of community."