Nurturing a love of landscape

When Nathan Hills stands looking at the Sugar Loaf Islands, he imagines being an early explorer.

The environmental educator says he feels a strong connection with the Paritutu Centennial Park overlooking Back Beach.

"It's the one place I feel like an islander and that's one of the things that makes us special. A lot of explorers, like Captain Cook or Joseph Banks, may have thought, 'Wow, what an amazing place to discover'."

On Saturday, Taranaki people will be able to do just that.

From 1.30pm to 3.30pm Hills is running Where More Wild Things Are, a Puke Ariki event that ties in with the exhibition Shadowing Venus: Pacific Adventures of Joseph Banks.

The exhibition, which closes on Sunday, not only features beautiful botanical prints from the Banks' Florilegium, but also tells stories about the characters in the HMS Endeavour in 1869 during their voyage of discovery to New Zealand.

Hills says this family friendly afternoon will allow people to learn about special plants and marine wildlife.

"It's a really good opportunity for mums and dads to come down with the kids and have a nature experience together," he says. "We are going to be playing a whole lot of fun games and turn everyone into explorers."

The two-hour event is being held on the grassy terraces that offer different views of the Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area and the adjoining Tapuae Marine Reserve.

Those who come along will be split into five groups, so they can visit stations set up by different community groups. These are Mimi School - which has made a five-minute video about little blue penguins, the Ngamotu Marine Reserve Society, DOC, NZ Forest & Bird and the Rapanui Grey- faced Petrel Trust.

The trust will talk about the petrels - which nest on the Sugar Loaf Islands, and share the protection work being done on the mainland in North Taranaki.

Hills says people won't be bombarded with facts - the session is all about having a good experience - but there will be experts on hand to answer questions.

"We want people to learn how special this place is," he says. "If people establish links with an area they start to nurture it."

Learning to love a place and its wildlife is not often talked about in science, he says. "But a very important part of conservation is developing compassion and feelings for a place - not about making money, but appreciating it for what it is."

To find out what's extra-special about this area, people just need to head along to Paritutu Centennial Park (don't go down on the beach) on Saturday at 1.30pm and join in the fun.

Taranaki Daily News