News | 5 February 2021
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Empowering rangatahi to branch out into nature

Encouraging young people to connect with nature, build relationships and work together towards a common goal is the name of the game for ZEALANDIA’s Rāngai Rangatahi / Youth Collective.

Eleven young people standing in a group smiling at the camera. They are members of the Zealandia Youth Collective.

Launched last year by Community Engagement Ranger Cat Ayres, the initiative brings together Wellingtonians aged 15-18 and is seeking to recruit 12 young people for its next intake beginning on 20 February.

Cat says the programme’s aim is to connect rangatahi, or youth, from diverse backgrounds with nature and help them develop the skills to turn their interests into action.

“As a globally recognised ecosanctuary based in the heart of Wellington, we are in an exciting position to be able to share our knowledge to empower young people and give them a platform to inspire others.

“Their voice is important, and we aim to support them in learning a range of skills which they can take forward and opens them up to new possibilities for when they leave school.”

The programme, which embraces te ao Māori, has members learning about conservation through a range of behind-the-scenes experiences at Zealandia, while drawing on different staff members’ expertise to facilitate sessions on topics the young people are interested in learning about.

“We want it to be led by young people, so we empower them as much as possible to shape what the Youth Collective is,” Cat says.

In addition to learning more about local nature through practical activities, a lot of the importance will be placed on skills around working together: teamwork, and collaboration.

“Towards the final third of the programme, they’ll be able to take what they learnt and choose how to create it into something they can share with other people.”

The Youth Collective will run over three school terms, with the group meeting twice a month (on a Wednesday evening and a Saturday).

The programme is fully funded.

Ten young people, who are members of the Zealandia Youth Collective, siting in a circle on the lawn at Zealandia.
Youth Collective members at Zealandia. Photo by Te Kawa Robb.

“Many people face barriers when it comes to connecting with nature and everyone has the right to feel comfortable and confident in our natural spaces,” Cat says.

“We do what we can to reduce some of those challenges. We make sure transport costs are covered, that food is provided, and we have realistic expectations when it comes to their commitment to the programme – 15 to 18-year-olds have a lot going on.”

The Collective will be facilitated by Cat, who has a background in science communication and youth programming, and environmental educator, Te Kawa Robb.

Its first youth intake last year was tasked with designing a visual identity and kaupapa for the Collective to take forward.

Their vision concluded the group would be “passionate about the environment with a goal to make change”, with the Collective’s values including compassion, manaakitanga (being hospitable), inclusiveness, kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and hard work.

“The openness, enthusiasm and creativity of the young people involved in our start-up project blew me away,” Cat says.

“They achieved so much as a group in four days that I can’t wait to see what the new Youth Collective accomplish in our expanded 2021 programme.”

Applications for the next Zealandia Youth Collective intake are open now until Thursday 11 February.

Cat says support is available to those who need help to apply. For more information, visit the webpage:

The first session will be on 20 February.