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LOCAL BUSINESS PITCHING IN TO RESOLVE FESTIVAL WASTE

A local business venture is pitching in to reduce the number of tents that end up in landfill after festivals and events around Aotearoa and, just as it has its beginnings here in Gisborne, it will be launched at Waiohika Estate for Rhythm & Vines 2020-21.

Meet Lisa Taylor, otherwise known as Camp Mother to thousands of kids who have passed through the gates of RnV over the past 15 years. Lisa first stepped into her role as Camp Mother in 2007, when she was employed to manage one of the BW Campgrounds. In that first year her team were responsible for 1500 campers, a number which swelled over the years, culminating in the 4000 punters that camped at Te Kuri A Tuatai Marae under Lisa and her crew’s care.

Lisa attributes the success of the campgrounds she’s managed over the years, “we’ve only ever had to cut one wristband” she says, to the spirit of manaakitanga, a way of receiving their visitors which comes naturally to her and her crew of camp managers and staff, which has remained fairly consistent over the years.  

Lisa’s role has now extended to HOD Festival Camp Manager, managing all of the eight campsites and staff, which this year includes seven Camp Managers. All of the Camp Managers except one are women, Māori, and “bloody amazing” Lisa says. “They’ve got that natural manaaki, which they bring from the marae. As soon as the kids arrive we’re looking after them. By the time they leave, they’re calling us ‘Aunty’, ‘Whaia’ or ‘Bro’”.  

The Camp Managers see their main jobs as keeping their campers safe, “We look at it like, that could have been my daughter or my son – we know we’d be grateful that there was someone looking after them”.  By the end of each festival, life stories have been shared, and many a new Facebook friendship has been formed between staff and campers. 

Meet Lisa Taylor, otherwise known as Camp Mother

Lisa strongly believes that camping is one of the success stories for R&V. She notices more and more kids coming back year after year and she says that often tickets are selling before the lineup has even been announced, “What it’s done is it’s flipped the whole experience of R&V on its head I suppose. Kids are now coming for the experience rather than just the lineup”.

Lisa reckons they were quite strategic about how they went about managing the camps, especially those early days,  “knowing our communities more than anyone, we were able to mitigate any mischief making.   We had some hearty locals stay at our campsite to uphold a kind of family atmosphere that encouraged good behaviour”. 

In collaboration with one of R&V and BW’s founders, Andrew Witters, Lisa has now applied that same underpinning of kaupapa Māori, namely the principal of kaitiakitanga, to approach the problem of so-called single use tents at events such as R&V; that solution is called ‘Bookatent.’ 

As Andrew Witters puts it “there’s no hiding behind the fact that until now, two days after R&V there has always been this sea of rubbish, namely tents” and while enterprising locals had done their best to turn the situation into an opportunity by passing the tents onto charities to sell as fundraising, Andrew says that in reality “the issue had overwhelmed a lot of the charity groups – it became their problem”. 

Lisa and her camping crew in front of the morning’s set up of the Bluebird range

Bookatent has been created by Lisa and Andrew to provide sustainable tent solutions for events in New Zealand, which will be providing pre-pitched camping options at various festivals around the country this coming season, starting here with Rhythm & Vines. 

Their Bookatent website provides an easy-to-use booking system for tent and ticket packages at the different events, offering punters a quality festival experience that starts with a purchase and ends with the good vibe of reducing their environmental impact at their favourite events.  Bookatent has also joined the Sustainable Business Network Product Stewardship scheme with the catch cry ‘If you can’t “Love Your Tent”, love one of ours and we will use it again, and again, and again.’

Some of Lisa’s 200 camping staff start as early as August and last week began the mammoth task of pitching perfectly formed lines of tents ready for occupation come December 27. There are ranges of both nylon and canvas tents, catering to 2 – 4 people and with optional extras such as stretchers, which tackle the problem of airbeds – one of the worst offenders when it comes to landfill-fillers. 

Rhythm & Vines is the first festival in Australasia to do anything of this scale, and the Bookatent team had one of the tent manufacturers there onsite for set up, for problem-solving and to help shape their future plans, in which they hope will include more and more event campsites filled with booked tents as opposed to cheap tents only fit for a single outing.

Some of the canvas range already settled in amongst the vines.

“We’re all learning” both Lisa and Andrew agree, but in bringing together their experiences from the past into play they hope that this new venture of theirs will not only make a big difference at Rhythm & Vines but will help change that particular aspect of festival culture across the country. They hope that Bookatent will provide a sustainable and affordable option for local groups, schools and events too – a local business which provides a local solution to a global problem. 

Story & photographs by Sarah Cleave.

HUNTERS GIVING BACK

As hunters we just wanted to give back. Over our time hunting and fishing the Upper Waioeka we have seen Whio numbers plummet to the point where we thought we would lose these comical little creatures from the area’s rivers all together.

We managed to pull together a group of like-minded backcountry individuals by leaving notes in local hut books and writing in hunting magazines asking for help. The reply was deafening, turns out hunters really do care about the environments they hunt in and in particular the Waioeka. We now have volunteers from as far away as the South Island, Wellington, Tauranga and Gisborne all signing up to help. 

Luckily Game Gear came to the party and decided to back the project financially. It’s somewhere the owner has hunted for years and the idea of conservation had been on his mind for some time. He just needed an ethical way to go about it.

We have been inundated with volunteers. The local Enviroschools Wai Restoration Programme helped us to lay out 3.5km of accessible trapline in just one afternoon. It’s incredible to see such a program producing such skilled conservationists. If I had the means, I’d employ these students tomorrow but told them they need to finish school first. Everyone is keen to get involved from retirees to school groups. The Goodnature A24 stoat traps we are using only need to be checked twice a year and two weekends is something our busy volunteer force is happy to commit to. 

Currently we have 17km of trapline comprising of 170 odd traps under protection, with a plan to lay out another 9km in August. There’s still a lot of available river habitat and plenty of territories for juvenile Whio to move into.

Seeing some incredible early success with multiple kills under most traps and birds paired up ready to produce their first clutch of chicks in a long time this season, we are looking to expand the project. Theres still some prime Whio habitat that needs protecting and we have the volunteers to do it. 

We just need local businesses to get involved and support this groundbreaking project for the region with sponsorship of traps, lures and gas. It’s a great story to tell and makes for some pretty exciting staff trips.

For a long time hunters have been seen as the antithesis of conservation but we are here to say that’s simply not the case. We care about the environment and are giving back just as much if not more than any other backcountry user group and are having a lot of fun doing it.

If you’re keen to get involved with the Eastern Whio Link contact Sam Gibson on 0277750016 samthetrapman@gmail.com or @sam_the_trap_man on instagram.

Words & Photograph by Sam Gibson

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