Champion moth plant hunters have swapped the pest-plant defiled streets of Howick for the high seas.

The top 10 groups - about 30 students, in Auckland Council’s Sustainable Schools moth plant competition sailed to Motuihe as a reward for their pest-busting efforts.

The young environmentalists joined Classic Yacht Charitable Trust crews to sail to the island, where they were met by Motuihe Trust members, who have transformed the motu alongside Department of Conservation staff into a haven for native species.

Sustainable Schools advisor Cate Jessep says Howick’s winners loved their experience.

“The sailing was magic, with inspiring views of the island, and our crews were outstanding, so calm, clear and inclusive, letting the students take the helm and help raise the sails.

“And our Motuihe Trust supporters, some who also crewed the yachts, shared information about the island’s plants, birds and reptiles, and the dangers pest plants are to them.

“Seeing an endangered flowering kaka beak flourishing, and native birds, were highlights, while the students left inspired to return to their pest free activities.”

Enviroschools and Sustainable Schools both empower young people to create a sustainable city while helping make action accessible and relevant.

Howick’s annual moth plant hunt last year saw students gather more than 133,000 plant pods and seedlings, with fierce competition in the Howick Local Board funded hunt.

Board chair Damian Light says the area’s schools take it seriously, with bragging rights eagerly contested.

“Seeds from moth plant pods would easily carry from Howick to Motuihe, so these young people play a role in what is happening on the island. It’s important to show them that what they do makes a difference.
“Locals always tell us that protecting the natural environment needs to be a priority and we’re fortunate to have amazing young people and enthusiastic supporters in their schools who want to be involved.”

“Our day started at the Maritime Museum,” Botany Downs Secondary College student Ella Fong says. “A sniffer dog checked us to ensure we weren’t carrying any pests, because stowaways are one of the main causes of unwanted animals being introduced on to land.

“After kauri dieback precautions we donned lifejackets before boarding our classic yachts.”

Fellow student Prisha Patel says the group met Motuihe Trust volunteers for a briefing before visiting a rare native kakabeak plant and trekking the island, learning about the invasive pampas grass weed and native toitoi.

“Weeds were removed along the way as we spotted and listened to birds, including tui and grey warbler, and we even caught a glimpse of a saddleback.”

By the numbers

  • Four categories – preschool, primary, intermediate, secondary

  • 91 teams competing

  • 57 first time entrants

  • About 400 participants

  • 133,507 pods & small vines collected

  • 700 seeds per pod

  • 93,454,900 seeds that will not germinate.

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