Project allows virtual trip to special lagoon

00:26, Sep 13 2012

Not every school pupil gets the chance to check out Waituna Lagoon in person - but now they can visit it through a virtual field trip hosted by Kiwi company Learnz.

Filming at the lagoon for the virtual field trip started yesterday.

Learnz field trip teacher Shelley Hersey said 60 classes throughout the country were signed up to take part in the virtual field trip, which also included live audio-conferences with experts, videos, and diaries.

"We don't have a lot of these areas left . . . this brings the issue to people across New Zealand," she said.

Environment Southland education officer Julie Clifton said a host of experts were on hand to discuss aspects such as the lagoon's physical qualities, its aquatic life, and its history as a source of mahinga kai for local Maori.

The lagoon had been internationally recognised as an important area to protect, and the virtual field trip would allow students from across the country to learn why, she said.

Environment Southland aquatic ecologist Andy Hicks, who was also on hand during yesterday's shoot, said sharing information about the lagoon would be valuable for schoolchildren and the lagoon itself.

"You can't care about something until you know what it's all about and Waituna, unless you know about it, you wouldn't sort of stumble on it . . . it's got a lot of things that make it worth caring about," he said.

Learnz has been running since 1995. Environment Southland communications manager Michele Poole said work was continuing in the Waituna catchment to find ways of reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients in the lagoon, which was still at risk of "flipping" into an algae-dominated state, mainly because of increasing nutrient levels in its waters.

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The Southland Times