The pōwhiri was full of smiles as the partners who have worked together to develop the programme greeted the tauira.
The Regional Intersectoral Forum, which includes iwi, government agencies and local councils, has partnered with NMIT under its Environmental Pou led by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to deliver the programme.
DOC Partnership Manager, Matt Hippolite, said "Iwi don't have the capacity to deal with every government department and we want to help grow that capacity."
The 10-month NCEA Level 4 programme, will see 10 iwi supported learners complete modular conservation-based content with an emphasis on mātauranga Māori. NMIT will deliver the technical skills and the mātauranga will be taught by local iwi through noho.
He said the learners will learn about the special places and species of the area - the taonga - and the ways they have been cared for and preserved in the past. He said the programme is the very essence of kaitiakitanga and making sure the "good things we know now will still be around for our children and our children's children".
The field based learning will be on and around Moturoa/Rabbit Island within the Waimea Inlet restoration project.
Matt said Moturoa offered a great learning space with pest trapping, predator control and restoration projects already underway there. The area also included a marine mammal burial site, wetlands, a remnant of native planting and a production forest, allowing students to learn by doing.
NMIT Primary Industry Curriculum Manager, Monique Day, said it was exciting this day had come, with desire to run this type of programme finally being realised. She said she looked forward to seeing the curriculum being experienced by the learners and welcomed them to the NMIT whānau.
The pilot programme will be reviewed at the end of the year to learn what worked well and with the possibility of replicating it in other regions.
Matt said the learners would be supported, not only to succeed on the programme but also in cadetships and employment following completion of the programme. Iwi, DOC, plantation forestry and community groups have all expressed interest in recruiting from the programme.
The programme is bringing together many partners including funding through DOC, Ministry of Social Development, NMIT, Tasman District Council, Te Puni Kōkiri and Whenua Kura.
The learners will complete New Zealand Certificate in Conservation (Operations) that is also the qualification for the Trainee Ranger Kaitiaki Whenua programme.
This programme also delivers on three of the five priorities outlined for the government 2019 budget(external link). It is not only creating opportunities for productive business, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low emissions economy, but also looking to lift Māori skills and opportunities and supporting wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24 year olds.