Little paws make big impression

Kauri dieback education in Te Taitokerau schools just got a whole lot cuter with Oi the dog on the job. 

After joining Northland Regional Council, biosecurity officer Stella Kake-Schmidt saw an opportunity to bring more kauri dieback education into the classroom and inspire the next generation of kaitiaki of magnificent taonga. 

“My dog Oi and I had done a fair bit of work in schools before I joined the regional council, particularly around kiwi and dogs, so it felt like we could develop something similar around kauri dieback,” says Stella. 

The council works with schools and early education across the region through the Enviroschools Programme, and kauri dieback education is a natural fit with the living landscapes theme area says Education Manager Susan Karels. 

“The Enviroschools kaupapa is all about learning and taking action to care for our world, and Stella and Oi’s workshop is an exciting extension of the mahi council’s kauri dieback team has previously carried out with schools.” 

Since May, Stella and Oi have been into 19 schools with the kauri dieback education programme so far, reaching around 775 students. 

Kauri dieback is a deadly, fungus-like disease that can kill kauri trees of any age. Spores in the soil infect kauri roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree. With no known cure, preventing the spread of infected soil is critical to the future of our kauri. 

During Stella and Oi’s two-hour interactive workshop students learn about kauri trees, how the kauri dieback pathogen works and what we can all do to protect the kauri in our forests. 

“It’s about trying to activate that kaitiakitanga that everyone has inside them, getting students thinking about their own connection with these incredible trees and how our actions impact on them,” says Stella. 

Oi makes his appearance to illustrate how even little paws like his can spread around infected soil – a pinhead size of soil is enough to spread the disease. 

“We talk with the tamariki about thinking of a forest like a house – you wouldn’t go into someone’s house with dirty shoes, and we need to have the same respect and care for our ngahere. 

“Scrub, check, spray so you arrive clean and leave clean when you’re in Northland’s kauri forests.” 

Enviroschools facilitators have helped link the kauri dieback workshops into the school curriculum through learning areas like the nature of science, the living world, place and environment and continuity and change. 

“Having that integration into the curriculum helps ensure the learning around kauri dieback is embedded and continues to grow long after Oi and I have visited.” 


Oi the dog