Growing up in Rotorua, Te Wakaunua Te Kurapa is used to spending summers on the region’s lakes.
But this time will be slightly different as he and fellow Bay of Plenty Regional Council summer student, Jemma Hippolite, spend the holiday period out and about educating those enjoying the region’s lakes on how to prevent the spread of all aquatic pests including catfish, hornwort and didymo.
The pair will talk to thousands of people over the summer months – from retail outlets and backpacker hostel staff, though to those swimming, boating and fishing.
Te Kurapa and Hippolite have been out for the past month talking to people and says the awareness is varied.
“We’re employed to gauge awareness around aquatic pests.”
As part of that they are carrying out a survey asking people what pests they know exist in Rotorua lakes, what can be done to prevent them and what they need to do if they find pests on their equipment.
Hippolite says it all centres around two key messages – Stop the Spread and Check Clean Dry.
“We want to make sure people are aware that even a small fragment of weed transferred from one lake to another can be hazardous, which is why it’s important to check all equipment before launching to ensure we stop the spread of unwanted pests.”
Hippolite says the level of awareness has been mixed, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Even those who are aware of the messages are really happy to see us out there doing the work we are doing.”
Te Kurapa says coming from an environmental background – his father worked for Department of Conservation – protecting the environment has always been a part of him.
He is studying a Bachelor of Environmental Planning at Waikato University, and says the summer role is a great extension of his studies.
“For me growing up locally, I’m really familiar with the Rotorua lakes but I wasn’t sure about the technical side so this was a great opportunity to grow that knowledge.”
Hippolite also has a science background, having finished a degree in biology from the University of Canterbury.
Originally from Nelson, Hippolite grew up spending time in the outdoors – hunting, fishing and diving.
She says a key attraction of the summer job was being able to put her passion and knowledge to work in an environment which could benefit from that.