Festival aims to connect youth to nature

Doc ranger Alishea Dench leads a dance line of jovial animals in Moray Pl yesterday, comprising ...
Doc ranger Alishea Dench leads a dance line of jovial animals in Moray Pl yesterday, comprising (from front) Kevin Wauters, Rachel Cooper, Lucy Coyle, Taylor Davies-Colley and Jack Buchan. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Wild Dunedin hopes to excite the next generation about the great outdoors as its ever expanding nature festival starts this week.

The trust's New Zealand Festival of Nature will run from Friday to the following Wednesday, hosting 70 events, up on last year's 50.

It is in its third year.

Festival co-ordinator Jeannie Hayden said the aim was partly to bring nature to youth.

``Probably 70% of the events are family friendly. We've really focused on the young generation and families because our festival's all about getting people out into nature. If there's no connection to nature, they won't want to protect it.''

The trust was trying to grow the festival ``sustainably'', she said.

``We don't have too much funding; it's still very much smell of an oily rag.''

The festival was created by educational and eco-tourism companies who felt the city's nature was not being promoted enough, she said.

``The aim is to have fun first and then educate after that.''

The festival will begin with a free event at the Otago Museum's Hutton Theatre on Friday night.

There, RNZ and The Project host Jesse Mulligan will MC a competition in which speakers have seven minutes to argue what makes Dunedin the wildlife capital of New Zealand.

On Saturday morning, Mr Mulligan and Department of Conservation threatened species ambassador Nicola Toki will host their Critter of the Week segment at the same location.

On Sunday, for Earth Day, Orokonui Ecosanctuary will host festival guests and offer discounted tours as well as holding a range of other attractions.

On Monday night at the Coronation Hall in Portobello, members of the Backyard Kiwi Campaign will lead a discussion of whether the birds could be introduced into the wild in Dunedin.

Throughout the festival, its ``Nature HQ'' will be in the Community Gallery at 20 Princes St.

It will house local art including Dunedin artist Tori Clearwater's life-sized albatross, which was created out of rubbish to show how plastics threaten bird life.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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