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Ever wanted to take not just a walk, but a Great Walk. Well, if you are in New Zealand, you are in luck! In NZ you are able to take a Great Walk through some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring landscapes on premier walking tracks.

New Zealand’s Great Walks are premier tracks that pass through diverse and spectacular scenery. From native forests, lakes and rivers to rugged mountain peaks, deep gorges, and vast valleys…there’s a Great Walk for everyone! Great Walks tracks are well formed and easy to follow. While you might prefer to explore on your own terms, there are also guided trips available that offer a bit more comfort. Great Walks are accessible from major towns that are well serviced by local operators and accommodation and transport providers.

Today we are going to look at four different Great Walks and what it is like to walk them…

Let’s start with Lake Waikaremoana – a well-known part of the Great Walk family. This one is more of a backcountry, off the beaten track experience in which you are immersed into stunning natural wilderness and welcomed into the homeland of Ngai Tūhoe. Those who have walked it often say you leave with a sense of connection, rejuvenation, and wellness. Lake Waikaremoana will take you about 3-4 days to walk, an overall distance of 46 km. It is located in Te Urewera, east North Island, which is close to Wairoa, Gisborne, and Rotorua.

Next up we have the Tongariro Northern Circuit which is located in the Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island region. From late October to April, you can explore the volcanic heart of Tongariro National Park, a landscape of stark glacial contrasts and alpine views. From May to late October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, avalanches, and short daylight hours – therefore you can only go if you have navigation and alpine skills. It is pretty incredible that you are able to journey through dramatic (and active!) volcanic landscapes, glacial valleys, native beech forest, alpine meadows, and emerald-coloured lakes. This walk also takes about 3-4 days at a distance of 43 km Location. It is easy to get here from the National Park Village, Tūrangi, Ohakune, or Waiouru.

A pretty special walk is up next – the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Most visitors only walk in one direction on the Coast Track and get a water taxi in the other direction. Luckily, both ends are serviced by public transport and water taxis stop at the main beaches! However, you can walk the whole track or kayak between different locations. While you are travelling you can enjoy the mild climate, golden beaches, and lush coastal native bush on the Abel Tasman Coast Track. This walk will take about 3-5 days at an overall distance of 60 km.

Finally, we are heading down south to look at the famous Routeburn Track. This track takes a little less time than the others – about 2-4 days at a distance of 32km. From November to April, you can weave through meadows, reflective tarns, and alpine gardens, and be rewarded with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys. However, from May to October, it can be cold and wet, with ice, snow, and short daylight hours – therefore you should only attempt it if you have alpine, navigation, and river crossing skills. The Routeburn is located in the Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks and therefore is often done by people visiting Queenstown.

So, what do you think? Time to plan your Great Walks adventure!

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is beneficial about going on a long walk?
  2. Why should we all do at least one of the Great Walks?
  3. What are some more benefits of having the Department of Preservation look after the Great Walks?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. Ask your teachers at school how they would feel about getting the class involved in a class trip to one of the Great Walks near your school.   
  2. What Great Walk on this list would you most like to conquer?
  3. Research some of the other Great Walks of NZ – what else looks like something you would enjoy?

Being a kiwi kid is amazing. No doubt about it. To me, it is better than being a kid in any other country! Growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand I can truly say we have the world’s best backyards and the absolute best ways to fill each day. (I can vouch for this because I have done a fair amount of travelling and also lived in England as a kid, and it doesn’t even compare). Nothing beats the NZ environment!   

Kids can grow up so quickly nowadays, with early access to iPhones, make-up, PlayStation, and other luxuries associated with being a teenager, at least! Videos from all over the world on Facebook and YouTube document this, showing kids playing on their phones more than playing outside. I’m not saying that New Zealand isn’t a little bit like this too. But it seems to me that the magic of being a kid is still alive in kiwi backyards. Playing outside with your friends, going swimming in rivers, doing cartwheels and riding bikes with the neighbourhood kids, eating fish and chips on the beach, backyard BBQ’s. These are the memories that we hang onto forever, that you won’t find anywhere else, or at least find nearly as good.

It’s also important to mention how amazing it is to be in a country where you feel pretty safe, wherever you are. Not all countries can say the same thing! Your parents can let you head down to the waterhole, the beach, the park, the local hike, the river, the whatever, without having to worry.  Another magic thing about being a Kiwi Kid is knowing the secrets that this country holds. Every Kiwi Kid knows a top-secret location that they visit every summer and will always continue to. You don’t have to go on a fancy overseas holiday to have an answer, you can have the best summer every in the Kiwi Backyard.

Therefore, it is so important – so, so, so, so, so, so important – that Kiwi Kids do our part to help protect the New Zealand environment. We are lucky to have grown up in this incredible place, but it will not look like this forever. At the rate we are currently going, our children won’t have the same magical backyard that we do. Here are some tips for playing your part:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Check the label on every piece of rubbish, to make sure you’re putting it in the right bin. Even better, you can avoid throwing things away altogether, by buying fewer things, taking better care of the things you have, and finding ways to repair or reuse things that are old or broken.

Protect our Habitats! Stand up against deforestation, by avoiding foods that contain unsustainable palm oil. Keep your local habitats safe by sticking to the paths. You could even make your own garden wildlife-friendly by setting aside space for nature! You could build a bee hotel, have a log pile, or even create a pond.

Become a green eater! In the past, people thought that we could take whatever we wanted from the planet, without any consequences! Now, we know that’s not true. If we keep taking as much as we want, whenever we want, our planet’s resources could one day run out. If we could all cut down, just a little bit, it would take the pressure off natural ecosystems, and ensure that these animals – and their habitats – have a healthy future. Talk to your family and ask if you could all try some vegetarian or vegan meals.

Be a Planet Advocate! The real secret of how to save the planet? Sharing your knowledge with others and helping them to become eco-heroes too! Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell others about your planet passions! It takes lots of people working together to make change happen – so share, share, share!

Come on Kiwi Kids – it’s our future and it’s our job to make it clean and green.

Critical Thinking Challenges:

  1. Do you think that there are countries where children have a better or worse environment than NZ? Elaborate.   
  2. Do you think New Zealand kids can make a positive difference to the future of New Zealand’s environment?
  3. How has New Zealand’s environment changed and developed throughout the years? Ask your parents what it looked like when they were young. How was it different?

Practical Tasks:

  1. Ask you peers what they do to help protect the environment?
  2. What is the best thing about the Kiwi environment? How has New Zealand’s summer changed and developed throughout the years? Ask your parents what they got up to. Compare with your classmate’s parents.
  3. What is your opinion on this article? Do you believe that New Zealand really does have the best environment?

Term 2 – Week 5 – Marine Life in NZ

New Zealand’s ocean area is over fifteen times the size of our land. This is an enormous area for our scientists to study and for our people to look after. However, we’re learning more and discovering new marine plants and animals all the time. Just as there are different types of habitats on land, the ocean also has a vast range of habitat types and species who live within them. 

A habitat can be the size of your backyard, or big enough to cover hundreds of kilometres of ocean. It all depends on the unique conditions and features of that area. A habitat is the environment where a species lives. It provides all the food, shelter, protection, and mating opportunities for that species.  You could think of your habitat as your house, your garden, and the shop where you get your food from.

Now, there are some pretty amazing examples of marine life in New Zealand’s ocean.

Let’s start with the exciting creatures we all know – Sharks. About 66 types of sharks are found in New Zealand waters ranging in size from the tiny pygmy shark which grows up to 27 cm long to the 12-metre-long whale shark.

Sea turtles also roam our waters. Although turtles breed in the tropics and subtropics, there are five species of turtle that are seen in New Zealand waters. Green and Leatherback turtles are the most common.

You might not have seen them before – but sea snakes and are occasional visitors to New Zealand’s waters, arriving here naturally from time to time on ocean currents.

New Zealand has also been known to spot the spotted black grouper – which is only found in southeast Australia, Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Lord Howe, Norfolk Islands, and northern New Zealand.

But life isn’t always easy for New Zealand marine life and many of them are endangered. Protected marine species include all marine mammals and reptiles; sea birds (except black-backed gulls); seven species of fish; all black corals, gorgonian corals, stony corals, and hydrocorals. These species face a range of threats such as climate change, sedimentation, disease, pollution, and bycatch in commercial and recreational fisheries.

DOC is responsible for New Zealand’s marine reserves and marine protected and threatened species. Marine protected areas are an important tool in ensuring that our marine biodiversity is maintained in a healthy state. Our marine protected areas are special places offering spectacular opportunities to see marine life, thriving and abundant in their natural environment. Activities such as sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, and diving are just some of the ways you can explore what is above and below the surface.

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. Do you think catching/eating seafood is acceptable? Why/why not?
  2. Where are some of New Zealand’s marine reserves?
  3. What would happen to amazing marine life if it wasn’t protected?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. How can we help protect our marine life?
  2. Have you ever seen any examples of the marine life mentioned in this article? Where?
  3. What are some other ways to see marine life, other than the ways mentioned in this article?

Real Madrid has beaten Liverpool 1-0 to win the Champions League for a record-breaking 14th time at the Stade De France.

Vinicius Junior scored just before the 60-minute mark with Real’s first attempt on goal.

It was Real Madrid’s fourth Champions League title in seven years.

The final was supposed to be played in St Petersburg but the European soccer governing body, UEFA, relocated it to Paris after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 28: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid controlls the ball during the UEFA Champions League final match between Liverpool FC and Real Madrid at Stade de France on May 28, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)

Term 2 – Week 4 – The Kiwi Coast

Ask any Kiwi where their favourite beach is, and they’ll all have a different answer. From north to south, our coastlines make up some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But they are more than just pretty to look at, these coastlines are all unique and interesting in their own way.

New Zealand has 15,000 kilometres of coastline making it the 9th longest in the world. The coastline borders the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The northern and southernmost points of the coastline on the two main islands are Surville Cliffs and Slope Point respectively.

There are many interesting things to know about the coastlines around New Zealand and all the different types of beaches and sands they are made up of. In some beaches up north of New Zealand, the sand squeaks as you walk on it because it is so fine. Most of the sand that we think of is white sand, but in New Zealand we have many other colours. The well-known black sand beaches sweeping down the west coast of the North Island are the sites of New Zealand’s greatest known reserves of ironsand. There is even pink sand, located at Pink Beach – a remote destination on the east side of Shakespear Park, in Auckland. The park offers hours of hiking trails and has three popular beaches with beautiful pink sand. Wherever you are on the New Zealand coastline, you are never too far away from many unique and interesting types of coastlines – rugged looking beaches, unusually coloured sandy beaches, beaches with massive sand dunes to boogie board down and so much more.

You may have heard specifically of a few famous coastlines that make up the beaches of New Zealand. Ninety Mile Beach is on the western coast of the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. But truth be told, the beach is actually 88 kilometres long. Interestingly, this beach is officially a highway, but is really only suitable for 4WD vehicles and is safe to drive only at specific times of the tides. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the Moeraki Boulders, situated along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast of New Zealand. The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders scattered either as isolated or clusters of boulders within a stretch of beach where they have been protected in a scientific reserve. Moeraki boulders are a wonder of the world.

New Zealand’s coastlines are so beautiful and internationally renowned that many Hollywood movies are filmed there – such as Narnia: Prince Caspian, the Waterhorse, Mulan, Mission Impossible: Fallout, a Wrinkle in Time, Lord of the Rings, Falling in Love, The Piano and even Taylor Swift’s music video: Out of the Woods. 

While it is beautiful to look at, there is no denying that the coast can be dangerous. Surf Life Saving New Zealand has revealed that the nation does have some particularly dangerous beaches, based on the number of rescues carried out in the past year. In particular, notorious West Auckland beaches Muriwai, Bethells and Piha, known for their dramatic black sand, rugged beauty and wild surf, had 82 rescues between them in the 2018/19 period. Thankfully, we have amazing surf-life savers across New Zealand who are always ready to help where needed and keep an eye on things even when they are not.

What’s great to know, which is something all kiwis do, is that wherever you are in NZ you are never too far away from the beautiful coast and all the wonders it has to offer.

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is dangerous about the coast?
  2. How can people tell that going swimming in the ocean will be dangerous that day? What signs are there to look out for?
  3. Why do surf-life savers need to be on the lookout, even on a calm day?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is your favourite thing about the coast?
  2. What is your favourite beach in New Zealand, and why?
  3. What is an interesting fact you can think of about the New Zealand coastlines in particular?

Department of Conservation – it sounds boring but stick with me! If you haven’t heard of them (maybe by their more common name “DOC”), then you’ve definitely still benefited from the work they do for us Kiwis. As you are travelling around New Zealand, it’s difficult to miss the iconic yellow and green signs from the DOC. But what exactly is the DOC?

DOC is the government agency who are in charge of conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage. Their purpose is Papatūānuku Thrives – essentially meaning Mother Earth flourishes. Through protecting and maintaining New Zealand’s natural heritage, and ensuring more people get outdoors, DOC aims to make New Zealand the greatest living space on Earth.

DOC is probably the most prominent on backpacking travels around New Zealand due to the excessive walking, sight-seeing and wildlife-viewing that backpackers and working holidaymakers like to do in NZ. It is usually DOC that is keeping the walking trails maintained, looking after most backcountry huts on multi-day hikes, and doing measures of pest control to protect native wildlife species.

It doesn’t take long in New Zealand to spot a DOC walking track sign. Every walking/tramping track is well sign-posted; with an indication of the time it will take to get to the next checkpoint. The DoC also oversees the maintenance of tracks. But DOC look after more than the walks in NZ. They are also in charge of conservation of preserving wildlife, marine reserves, monitoring pest control, and protecting historic buildings.

DOC works to keep threats and impacts on native wildlife to a minimum. Most wild introduced animals in New Zealand are considered pests to DOC due to their negative impact on the native ecosystem. A few pest species include possums, cats, dogs, rats, and stoats. These can be known to threaten native plant life, affect forest health, and impact the birds there such as kiwis. In an attempt to manage the populations of these introduced pests, they set up pest control methods. DOC’s methods consist of fencing off animals from certain areas and, for example, ban pets from specific areas. DOC is also an expert in, well, killing things with traps and poisons used as a way to minimise the populations of pests.

Beyond that, DOC’s marine reserves protect marine life from being wiped out through fishing and other disturbances, so we are able to see rare wildlife living in its natural habitat. Recreational activities like snorkelling, boating, scuba diving and kayaking are still permitted in New Zealand’s marine reserve, however, there is a no-touch/no-take policy where you cannot remove anything from the marine reserve.

Although the DOC is government-funded, their budgets are usually too low for the amount of work needed to conserve New Zealand’s nature and history. For that reason, they often look for volunteers to help with their projects. Volunteer opportunities often include pest trap monitoring, hut and camp wardens, planting, beach clean-ups and much more.

DOC sometimes get a bad name for the measure they take to keep NZ looking beautiful. But whether you like them or not, DOC plays a big part in the beauty that surrounds us everywhere we go in Aotearoa.

Critical Thinking Questions:

  1. Why are possums a threat in NZ?
  2. Why is it important to keep walking tracks maintained?
  3. What would happen if we did not have DOC?

Practical Thinking Questions:

  1. What is a walk you have done where you noticed a DOC sign?
  2. Have you ever seen a DOC worker before? What were they doing?
  3. If you have time to volunteer for DOC, consider following this link to find out more: https://nzpocketguide.com/volunteer-department-conservation-new-zealand/
  4. If you don’t have time to volunteer – then simply do your part – keep tracks free of litter and follow the rules that DOC put up in your favourite areas in nature.