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The Nelson-Tasman Hub is one of Forest & Bird’s newest Youth Hubs with just over 30 youth signed up as volunteers. In August they helped organise the Moturoa Rabbit Island community planting day alongside Whenua Iti Outdoors and Tasman District Council.

We chat to Hub coordinator Nate Wilbourne about his enthusiasm for conservation and his hopes for the Nelson-Tasman Hub.

Tell us about yourself, Nate? Where did you grow up and your earliest memory of nature?

I'm a 14-year-old environmentalist from Tea Tau Ihu, I do a lot of conservation work in my spare time! I grew up in a small town south of Nelson called Brightwater, although we have a place over in Onetahu Farewell Spit which we go to lots.

I'm currently in high school and hoping to do a zoology or ecology degree when I go to university. I was around 8 years old when I first fell in love with nature. It was on a school planting trip near my local river, and ever since then I developed a connection with Papatūānuku.

How and when did you first get involved in environmental work with Forest & Bird Youth?

I joined the network in October 2021 as a passionate 13-year-old. I was on my way home from a day exploring Abel Tasman national park and decided I wanted to take my passion for nature and conservation to the next level. I searched online for opportunities, which is when Forest & Bird Youth came up.

As I learnt more about Forest & Bird Youth and got more involved, I was inspired to launch a new Hub in Nelson-Tasman this February (2022). There have been a couple of challenges along the way including the Covid restrictions which made face-to-face group activities difficult, but with more than 30 youth supporting Hub activities - I think it's been a great start for a Hub that is only six months old.

Now we have more freedom, we can actually do some mahi! I am hoping that our hub will be able to start doing some work with Forest & Bird's Te Hoiere Bat Recovery project, as well as just volunteering with other local conservation organisations so that we can build up our activities over time, and eventually start our own restoration project.

Nelson-Tasman hub youth members Evie (left) Nate (centre) & Maddy (right) at the Moturoa Rabbit Island community planting day. Credit Connor Wallace

Nelson-Tasman hub youth members Evie (left) Nate (centre) & Maddy (right) at the Moturoa Rabbit Island community planting day. Credit Connor Wallace

Which environmental projects you have been involved with so far are you most proud of? 

That's a very tough question! I think every opportunity I've experienced has taught me new things, and helped me gain new skills, but helping hands-on with the translocation and reintroduction of 20 kākāriki karaka into the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary in November 2021 was a great experience!

I also love helping with the local conservation projects in Onetahu; trapping, checking burrows for shearwaters, counting waders, and I'm looking forward over the coming years to assisting with translocations of kiwi, tīeke, kākā, and pāteke!

What is your favourite wildlife encounter? 

My first time seeing a kiwi in the wild was amazing. We were heading back from our night tour at Zealandia. We had about 5 minutes to go before we were back in 'civilization'. We hadn't seen a kiwi yet, but we could hear multiple birds. We were making our way around a corner of the sanctuary when all of a sudden this little spotted kiwi jumps out of the bushes!

"Kiwi! Kiwi! Kiwi!" I yell in excitement. My mum covered my mouth with her hand shushing me! While I'm jumping up and down on the spot in excitement, we watch this little kiwi crawl onto the track before hopping around our feet, it felt unreal. I felt like I was watching a documentary on kiwis, they just don't seem real at all.

Nate Wilbourne, Youth Co-ordinator for Nelson-Tasman Youth Hub. Credit Connor Wallace.

Nate Wilbourne, Youth Co-ordinator for Nelson-Tasman Youth Hub. Credit Connor Wallace.

Who is your Kiwi environmental hero?

I am inspired by everyone I meet on my journey. Everybody who I have met or worked with has played a huge role in my life! There are a few local people in particular who I really look up to though, the incredible Sophie WeeninkAlec & Marian Milne, Cynthia McConville, and Anne-Sophie Pagé, to name just a few!

If you could share one message with the government about the environment, what would it be? 

Listen to what we young people have to say, we care about our communities. The decisions that you make today are going to be affecting us the most, and we deserve our voices heard in council and by the government.

With our country facing a biodiversity crisis, as well as many other emergencies, solving lots of issues can be done by taking simple environmental actions. We can 'shoot two possums with one stone' by considering how one change can lead to multiple benefits. For example, thinking about the way our food is produced (sustainable agriculture) can minimize carbon emissions whilst also producing much more kai.

Read Young environmentalists help build sustainable communities
Read Youth leading the way

Evie and Nate marking the date of the Moturoa Rabbit Island community planting day on a cardboard tree protector. Credit Connor Wallace

Evie and Nate marking the date of the Moturoa Rabbit Island community planting day on a cardboard tree protector. Credit Connor Wallace

Join Forest & Bird Youth

Forest & Bird Youth is a nationwide network of young people (aged 14-25) who are protecting and restoring Aotearoa's wildlife and wild places. Join this nationwide community and get involved in events, competitions and more. You'll also have plenty of opportunities to learn more about conservation and develop your skills in a range of areas.

Find out more on our Forest & Bird Youth webpage
Visit the Forest & Bird Youth Facebookand Instagram

This article first appeared in the August 2022 E-news.

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