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Taranaki flood research project wins award


A tiny and remote Taranaki school has won an award for its work monitoring their local awa, the Waitotara River, and developing a flood warning system.

Ngamatapouri School has been awarded the Environmental Action in Education Award at the Taranaki Regional Council Environment Awards for using innovative technology to understand the local environment and inform their community.

In their unique project, the school’s 12 pupils are working as scientists, technical innovators and researchers as they come to grips with their community’s number one threat: flooding.

The school was closed for some time after extensive flooding to the Waitotara River in 2015 and is in an area that regularly faces flood warnings.

The students at the school are now using drones and digital technology to help them keep an eye on the Waitotara River and create a local flood warning system.

This project is supported by Curious Minds' Participatory Science Platform through Venture Taranaki, with the school also partnering with Bright Sparks, Drone Technologies NZ and Taranaki Regional Council.

After learning the correct operating procedures, the students began conducting regular drone surveys of the river. Combined with data they collect manually and Taranaki Regional Council’s monitoring data, these surveys are giving the students detailed knowledge of factors affecting the river’s quality and flow.

Over the course of the project, the students have been working with Dr Emily Roberts, who has been teaching them about subjects such as how to use water monitoring data. 

The students are also learning about the river’s cultural and historical significance.

Ngamatapouri School - 2019 Environmental Award Winners

At the awards, Professor Bruce Clarkson, one of New Zealand's leading experts in ecological restoration, commended Ngamatapouri School. “It’s great to see the pupils involved this way in such an important land and water management issue.”

Professor Clarkson told the awards ceremony the "people power" shown by the winners was an example to the rest of the country.

"It provides a model for uniting a community together to restore ecosystem health at a region-wide scale, including freshwater health, native habitat and wildlife protection, and wetlands protection."

The project was also connected to another award. Ben Plummer, of Drone Technologies NZ, taught the Ngamatapouri pupils how to use a drone correctly, following aviation protocols, to monitor water quality. Ben received the environmental leadership in business award for that and other work in the region.

The next stage of the project involves working with another technical specialist to develop a digital alert system for use by the whole community.

Visit the Taranaki Regional Council Environment Awards website


Scientists and locals collaborating around a table

Participatory Science Platform

Supports collaborative projects that bring together communities and scientists or technologists on research investigating a locally-important question or problem.

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