EIT’s new Environment and Sustainability Coordinator Mark Caves plans to maintain and develop the institute’s award winning outdoor learning project and also find ways of reducing EIT’s carbon footprint.
Mark will split his current role of Chef Tutor in the School of Tourism and Hospitality with his new co-ordinator role. As a World Chefs Association-approved Trainer in Sustainability Education for Culinary Professionals, he developed New Zealand’s first course to train chef students in ‘Locavore Food Markets’ (local ‘urban foraging’ and environmentally sustainable food production).
The combined role, enables him to marry his expertise in sustainable food supplies and food waste reduction, with projects related to sustainable use of resources and the Learning in Nature (LIN) education work being championed through the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre (OOLC).
The LIN project is an innovative collaboration between EIT, Ngāti Pārau (the mana whenua hapū for Ōtātara), Te Papa Atawhai (the Department of Conservation), Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and local environmental groups.
The role will see Mark work with EIT’s Environmental Educator Team including, Megan McBride and Robyn McCool, to ensure that more schools and community groups have the opportunity to visit and learn in the OOLC, which is located just below the Ōtātara Pa on the Hawke’s Bay Campus. The OOLC is a unique outdoor learning space consisting of a sustainably restored log cabin surrounded by local history, an ever increasing biodiversity and a gully which is being restored with native planting.
“I’m really enjoying the diverse nature of the role and there are a lot of synergies between my culinary background and what is happening at the OOLC.
“I want to plant edible native plants there and provide cooking and outdoor dining experiences. We’ve dug a hangi pit and we will be able to harvest the food from the edible plants to cook using traditional methods.”
“I think it is really important to teach the culinary chefs coming through about urban foraging and wild food harvest from native bushes so I’m really looking forward to getting that off the ground.”
Mark will continue the work of his predecessor Emma Passey, who helped raise the profile of EIT’s sustainability initiatives. It was recently announced that EIT is a finalist in the Benefiting Society Category of the prestigious 2022 International Green Gown Awards, as a result of it winning that category in last year’s Australasian Green Gown Awards.
The OOLC has a steady stream of local school children and community groups all year round. Students and staff from EIT programmes, including Bachelor of Teaching (Primary), and many in the Schools of Trades and Technology and Primary Industries, are also involved in projects there.
Mark says EIT is grateful for the support of local businesses, including the PanPac Environment Trust who provided funding for professional development workshops for local teachers. In addition he has secured a grant from the Ideal Electrical Trust to install solar panels to provide sustainable power to the log cabin and lighting for the surrounding area.
“Our next step will be to put in a sustainable water system to capture rainwater off the log cabin roof, which can be pumped to all of the native trees we are planting.”
“Electrical and plumbing students will help design and install it and we’ll have infographics and real-time displays of the power generated, so that visitors coming to the centre can see how solar power works.”
Mark’s appointment coincides with the School of Primary Industries starting this year’s native tree planting programme in a gully at the OOLC.
Tutor Brian McLay says the plants are coming from the Te Wai Mauri native plant nursery which was established at Waiohiki in November 2021. EIT has provided training for the nursery staff and will be the nurseries first customers.
“We are the first to purchase plants from them and it is fitting that they are planted in the Ōtātara area, as this is part of their ancestral land.”
“Te Wai Mauri’s planting team, the Kaitiaki Rangers, and the nursery staff will be joining us in a planting day on May 11 to plant the first of these natives in the gully.”
EIT Executive Dean Professor Natalie Waran, who oversees the institute’s sustainability strategy, says that Mark will take on responsibility for facilitating the development of collaborations and partnerships within EIT as well as externally with associated regional agencies, schools and the private sector. The aim is to begin and implement environmental and sustainability initiatives to meet the strategic outcomes of EIT and Te Pūkenga. In 2023 EIT will be fully intergraded into Te Pūkenga which will bring together New Zealand’s Institutes of Technology, Polytechnics, and Industry Training Organisations to build a network of on job, on campus and online learning.
“We are delighted that Mark has stepped into this role. He has a long standing interest in sustainability, and he will work collaboratively with all those involved to develop and maintain the award winning OOLC as well as drive the EIT sustainability action plan
“One such area is the Waste Minimisation Awareness Project where we are planning to reduce single use plastics on the campuses.