Students take hands-on approach to water quality

Southland Girls' High School year 9-10 students recently braved the windy weather and carried out a stream study and native riparian planting around the Waihopai dam in north Invercargill.

The students were split into two groups; one group learned how to monitor water quality and assessed macroinvertebrate life in the stream, while the other finished a riparian planting project that is a collaboration of four schools.

Since February, students from Invercargill Middle School, Otatara School, Southland Girls’ High School and Donovan Primary School have planted 495 plants, covering a distance of 300m along the Waihopai Stream.

The work is part of a concentrated effort to plant Environment Southland-owned land in the Waihopai catchment to improve water quality and create a healthy habitat for fish. The project has so far involved putting up fencing to exclude stock, developing a planting plan for the stream, and organising the school plantings.

Environmental Education Officer Pat Hoffmann says schools have been planting above the dam area for years, but the latest restoration project alongside the walkway below the dam will be bringing the message home to the wider public. “It’s quite exciting that people will be able to see a restored stream. Hopefully it will change the perception of what a healthy stream should look like.”

Pat says the plantings teach children the benefits of riparian strips for river and fish health. “In combination with the plantings we usually also run a stream study, and that varies slightly depending on what a particular school wants. We could be looking at water quality and ecosystem health, or include a focus on whitebait.”

 Watch a clip of the sudents  below (from 9 minutes)