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EIT named as joint winner in Green Gown Awards for Benefitting Society

November 26, 2021

The Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre (ŌOLC) on EIT’s Hawke’s Bay Campus is an important part of EIT’s sustainability strategy.

EIT has won the Benefitting Society Category in the prestigious Green Gown Awards Australasia for its community-focused Learning in Nature (LIN) project.

The awards are open to all Australasian tertiary institutions and recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives. EIT was a finalist in the Benefitting Society category last year and has gone one step further this year by being chosen as joint winner with Australia’s Deakin University.

EIT’s entry last year described the development of the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre (OOLC) on the Hawke’s Bay Campus and related activities, enabling LIN within an immersive mindspace.

This year’s entry  “Ko au te taiao, ko te taiao ko au: I am nature, nature is me” describes the project’s increased community reach and how it enhances lives by connecting people with nature and cultural heritage, whilst supporting the connection of schools with their own local environment. LIN has developed through research and regional engagement with educators and learners at EIT and through communities of practice. It has advanced teacher ability to embed nature literacy and sustainability values within the region’s educational culture from early childhood to post-graduate level teaching.

 The LIN project is an innovative collaboration between EIT, Ngāti Pārau, the mana whenua hapū for Ōtātara and EIT, central and local government agencies (Te Papa Atawhai /Department of Conservation, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council), and local environmental groups that include Predator Free HB, and EnviroSchools.

Professor Natalie Waran, EIT’s Executive Dean, Faculty of Education, Humanities and Health Science and Professor (One Welfare), says the award is recognition for a project that is a real example of how community collaboration can benefit local communities.

“Even more exciting is the fact that we were one of only two NZ tertiary organisations who got to the finals – the other being the University of Otago. The ‘Benefitting Society’ category is one of only five international categories in the Australasian awards, and this win sees EIT automatically entered as a finalist into the 2022 International Green Gown Awards where we will be up against world leading tertiary organisations showcasing exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken across the globe.”

“This project wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing passion and efforts of many of our EIT staff, students and community partners. We are also grateful to our main funding sponsors, Air NZ Enviro Trust and PanPac Environment Trust,” said Professor Waran, who leads EIT sustainability strategy.

“I am very grateful to all the wonderful staff members across Schools and Central Service Teams who have contributed their time and ideas to develop the OOLC, as well as the support of the EIT Council (now Board), Executive Team, and our many project partners including our colleagues from Ngāti Parau, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Department of Conservation (DOC), our own Environmental Educators, Community Groups, Enviro-School and many others,” says Professor Waran.

Chad Tareha, Chairman of Ngāti Pārau Hapū Trust, says the Trust is delighted that the LIN project has been recognised in this way.

“It has been a privilege being a part of such an amazing kaupapa (initiative) and partnering with EIT alongside other organisations and community groups for the sustainable benefit of our environment and future generations,” he says.

Sustainability is an important focus for EIT with a number of campus-wide initiatives underway. As a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga, EIT is also providing input into the network’s sustainability strategy going forward. Together with Unitec, EIT has organised a series of Sustainability ‘Show and Tell’ online hui for colleagues working on sustainability initiatives across the ITP and TITO sectors to come together to share. The series of hui has been supported by Ehsan Yaeghoobi , the Sustainability Lead for Te Pūkenga.

EIT’s winning entry in the Green Gown Awards can be read here – https://ggaa.acts.asn.au/2021/bs/eit/.