A Future in Conservation
An interview with former ZEALANDIA Youth Ambassador, Elizabeth Werner
Through the ZEALANDIA youth ambassador programme, young people in Wellington were given the opportunity to contribute to conservation with support from the ecosanctuary. Elizabeth Werner is 18 years old and from Tawa. She is passionate about science communication and loves to creatively express the issues facing the environment through public speaking, art, and dance. She was an ambassador from March 2018 for 12 months.
Elizabeth grew up valuing New Zealand’s wildlife and conservation. “We used to come to ZEALANDIA during weekends. My dad taught me about different bird species and showed me how to attract North Island robins to feed by our feet. In 2010, my mum brought me to see Sirocco, the kākāpō, and ever since then I’ve been obsessed with kākāpō.”
In 2018 there were six ZEALANDIA youth ambassadors in the Wellington region. Each of them was interested in a slightly different aspect of conservation.
“For me it was birds, bees, art and science communication,” says Elizabeth, “Another ambassador was interested in recycling and waste management, and another was into marine biology. It meant that we could bring together our different skills and think of big ideas.”
“ZEALANDIA gave us the opportunity to meet like-minded people. One thing that we did was go to Te Papa and educate the public about trapping.”
“I’ve been involved as a committee member with Pest Free Tawa for nearly a year, and decided to set up a club at college called Pest Free Tawa College to get other peers involved. I spoke to the education team at ZEALANDIA and they donated six traps to us. It was an opportunity to educate the college students about why we need to be kaitiaki or guardians of the native flora and fauna. One of the students is our cultural advisor who says a karakia when we retrieve a mammalian pest. I encourage all students to come along to get hands-on experience, even ones that don’t want to do the trapping. One student doesn’t do the trapping but does design work for us, like designing a logo and name tags.”
Elizabeth is also focused on getting young people involved in conservation and she recently gave a speech at the New Zealand Association of Environmental Education conference about it.
“Often the best thing you can do, and it’s so simple, is to remember someone’s name. That makes them feel included and significant. A lot of the time people at events look for other people who are similar to them to talk to. Get out of your comfort zone to talk to someone you wouldn’t normally.”
“It’s also really easy to exclude youth when you require people to bring equipment to events that you wouldn’t find around your average house. It puts up barriers to people getting involved especially young people. You need to make it as simple as possible or supply equipment.”
Although the ambassador role has now finished, Elizabeth is determined to continue volunteering for ZEALANDIA, possibly helping out with bird banding. She’s also just started a science degree in Ecology & Biodiversity and Environmental Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.
Article by Louise Slocombe