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EIT’s new Environment and Sustainability Coordinator
Mark Caves plans to maintain and develop the institute’s
award winning outdoor learning project and also find ways of
reducing EIT’s carbon footprint.

Mark will split his
current role of Chef Tutor in the School of Tourism and
Hospitality with his new co-ordinator role. As a World Chefs
Association-approved Trainer in Sustainability Education for
Culinary Professionals, he developed New Zealand’s first
course to train chef students in ‘Locavore Food Markets’
(local ‘urban foraging’ and environmentally sustainable food
production).

The combined role, enables him to marry
his expertise in sustainable food supplies and food waste
reduction, with projects related to sustainable use of
resources and the Learning in Nature (LIN) education work
being championed through the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning
Centre (OOLC).

The LIN project is an innovative
collaboration between EIT, Ngāti Pārau (the mana whenua
hapū for Ōtātara), Te Papa Atawhai (the Department of
Conservation), Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and local
environmental groups.

The role will see Mark work with
EIT’s Environmental Educator Team including, Megan McBride
and Robyn McCool, to ensure that more schools and community
groups have the opportunity to visit and learn in the OOLC,
which is located just below the Ōtātara Pa on the
Hawke’s Bay Campus. The OOLC is a unique outdoor learning
space consisting of a sustainably restored log cabin
surrounded by local history, an ever increasing biodiversity
and a gully which is being restored with native
planting.

“I’m really enjoying the diverse nature of
the role and there are a lot of synergies between my
culinary background and what is happening at the
OOLC.

“I want to plant edible native plants there
and provide cooking and outdoor dining experiences. We’ve
dug a hangi pit and we will be able to harvest the food from
the edible plants to cook using traditional
methods.”

“I think it is really important to teach
the culinary chefs coming through about urban foraging and
wild food harvest from native bushes so I’m really looking
forward to getting that off the ground.”

Mark will
continue the work of his predecessor Emma Passey, who helped
raise the profile of EIT’s sustainability initiatives. It
was recently announced that EIT is a finalist in the
Benefiting Society Category of the prestigious 2022
International Green Gown Awards, as a result of it winning
that category in last year’s Australasian Green Gown
Awards.

The OOLC has a steady stream of local school
children and community groups all year round. Students and
staff from EIT programmes, including Bachelor of Teaching
(Primary), and many in the Schools of Trades and Technology
and Primary Industries, are also involved in projects
there.

Mark says EIT is grateful for the support of
local businesses, including the PanPac Environment Trust who
provided funding for professional development workshops for
local teachers. In addition he has secured a grant from the
Ideal Electrical Trust to install solar panels to provide
sustainable power to the log cabin and lighting for the
surrounding area.

“Our next step will be to put in a
sustainable water system to capture rainwater off the log
cabin roof, which can be pumped to all of the native trees
we are planting.”

“Electrical and plumbing
students will help design and install it and we’ll have
infographics and real-time displays of the power generated,
so that visitors coming to the centre can see how solar
power works.”

Mark’s appointment coincides with
the School of Primary Industries starting this year’s
native tree planting programme in a gully at the
OOLC.

Tutor Brian McLay says the plants are coming
from the Te Wai Mauri native plant nursery which was
established at Waiohiki in November 2021. EIT has provided
training for the nursery staff and will be the nurseries
first customers.

“We are the first to purchase
plants from them and it is fitting that they are planted in
the Ōtātara area, as this is part of their ancestral
land.”

“Te Wai Mauri’s planting team, the
Kaitiaki Rangers, and the nursery staff will be joining us
in a planting day on May 11 to plant the first of these
natives in the gully.”

EIT Executive Dean Professor
Natalie Waran, who oversees the institute’s sustainability
strategy, says that Mark will take on responsibility for
facilitating the development of collaborations and
partnerships within EIT as well as externally with
associated regional agencies, schools and the private
sector. The aim is to begin and implement environmental and
sustainability initiatives to meet the strategic outcomes of
EIT and Te Pūkenga. In 2023 EIT will be fully intergraded
into Te Pūkenga which will bring together New Zealand’s
Institutes of Technology, Polytechnics, and Industry
Training Organisations to build a network of on job, on
campus and online learning.

“We are delighted that
Mark has stepped into this role. He has a long standing
interest in sustainability, and he will work collaboratively
with all those involved to develop and maintain the award
winning OOLC as well as drive the EIT sustainability action
plan

“One such area is the Waste Minimisation
Awareness Project where we are planning to reduce single use
plastics on the campuses.

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