Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre

The Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre is a nature based education space where the cultural and creative connection to the land, sustainable use of resources and the restoration of ecology and biodiversity management can be taught through using the outdoor environment as a context for learning. Our main sponsor is the Air New Zealand Environment Trust and the project involves partnerships and collaboration between a variety of different organisation including the HBRC, DoC and in particular Ngāti Pārau. Together, we are working to support schools and community groups to use the environment as a context for learning, so that we can grow future generations of New Zealander’s who understand the impact of their actions and inactions on creating a healthy and sustainable future for us all.

Rongoā (Māori medicine) Garden

Have you seen our newly planted Rongoā (Māori medicine) garden at the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre?  Rongoā Māori is the traditional healing system of Māori and incorporates the use of plant based remedies.

The Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 saw the demise of rongoā Māori because the tōhunga (experts, priests) who administered the rongoā could no longer continue this practice. However, as with many of this countrys’ traditional knowledges such as te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, toi Māori, a resurgence has occurred since the 1970s to revitalise these taonga tuku iho (heirlooms handed down from the ancestors). 

It is therefore an honour for us to be a part of this revitalisation and teaching of Rongoā thanks to an exciting collaboration between staff and students in Te Ūranga Waka, Nursing and Primary Industry.  The garden provides an opportunity to link knowledge with practice for many of our students across campus.  Our Nursing graduates, for example, will come be able to better engage and manage patients who use Rongoā in managing their own health. They will also be able to discuss possible interactions and complementary actions of the plants they are using.  All of our students, staff and visitors  will be able to see, touch and smell the native plants.  An additional project will enable the access to information on how each plant can be used as a natural alternative to modern medicine to alleviate, even cure a range of medical issues.

Are there opportunities to use Rongoā?  If you would like to know more about how you can use the garden please contact Emma Passey at EIT


Members of our community, EIT staff and students have begun in earnest to revitalise the pā harakeke at the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre.  There are two important plantings at the site.  The harakeke on the upper level were planted by those who were at the weaving roopu in the original stables when the Community Arts Centre was based on site.  The second planting, was one of ten locations of a nationwide harakeke evaluation trial that Manaaki Whenua carried out in the 1990s.  Three plants of 12 named harakeke varieties from the Orchiston Collection were grown at each of the 10 sites. The cultivars were: Ngaro, Ate, Parekoretawa, Paretaniwha,  Arawa, Paoa, Māeneene, Kōhunga, Tapamangu, Tapoto, Hūhiroa, Oue. 

There is a rich history of mahi raranga on this site and what better way to pay homage than to breathe new life into it and promote healthier plants which look their best at all times.  The Harakeke  working group also intends to undertake some research on the plant origins.

If you are keen to get involved with the working group, please contact Puti Nuku pnuku@eit.ac.nz.



Book the Centre

To find out more about our Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre and to register your interest, please contact Emma Passey at EIT emmap@eit.ac.nz

Environmental Studies

Equip yourself for a role in the exciting and ever-expanding world of environmental management. Develop knowledge and skills in environmental sustainability and how to manage environmental projects in business, community and government.

Māra Kai

In September,  Kumara tubers were laid down undercover in the EIT campus Greenhouse. Tipu will be planted at the site early November to demonstrate a traditional and Sustainable Food Production Practice.  A storage pit is also planned to accommodate the cyclic growing, harvest and storage methods of the Kumara.           

Revegetation Planting

At the beginning of September 2019 the NZ Certificate in Sustainable Primary Production (Level 4) cohort planned and implemented the first stage of revegetating the  bank by the log cabin at the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre.  Some 350 appropriate to site and eco sourced native species are now planted.  As they grow, they will both beautify and contribute to the biodiversity of the region. The students have recorded their work with “Trees that Count” https://www.treesthatcount.co.nz and will continually monitor their planting and record data for course assessment.

Long term weed control will be practiced using sustainable releasing (by hand and solely around the base of each tree) and maintained by future EIT Horticulture students.