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Published: 2004-03-02 00:00:00

The Waikato Region’s environment will be the venue for fun and exploration this month when the sixth annual Festival of the Environment gets underway.

Environment Waikato, Hamilton City, Franklin, Waipa, South Waikato and Taupo councils, with the Department of Conservation have joined with local organisations to create more than 40 events across the Region from March 12-21.

Co-ordinator Kim Macrae Jonson says the festival will be a chance to find out more about the Region’s special places, understand the pressures threatening the environment and discover what can be done at home and work to make a difference.

The launch event for the Festival is Environment Waikato’s Great E-Scape on March 13 and 14, a two-day environmental adventure from Taupo to Hamilton with 20 teams of four people competing for prizes. The teams will have to demonstrate their environmental knowledge along the way.

Interest has poured in from enthusiastic competitors, most aged 19-30 and all with a keen interest in their environment and doing something to understand and enhance it.

“We’re really pleased with the response we’ve had,” Ms Macrae Jonson said.

The Great E-Scape beings in Taupo early on Saturday morning and ends in Hamilton City at Centre Place with a human snakes-and-ladders game hosted by radio station ZM.

Other events scheduled for the Hamilton area include twilight zoo safaris, special zoo days for people with disabilities, home schoolers and senior citizens, a tramp to the Mangaokewa Stream near Te Kuiti with the Waikato Tramping Club, gully explorations and flax weaving lessons. There is also an environmental education expo at Hamilton Gardens.

There’s a vintage bike ride in Te Pahu’s native forests on Sunday March 14, the Waikato Tree Trust is running a guided tour of notable and protected trees on March 17, there are tours through Jubilee Bush, Hamilton Gardens’ food plants and Waikato University’s gardens as well as a hands-on composting workshop at Hamilton Gardens.

John Charteris will reveal the River’s secrets during a series of boat trips on the Waikato River on March 20 and 21.

Other highlights are the annual Waste 2 Art Exhibition and Trash to Fashion Show at the Meteor Theatre. Two extremely popular events organised by Hamilton City Council are back – the Suspended Solids float down the River in tyre inner tubes and the environmental youth conference for year 12 and 13 students.

The first 50 people registered for the Suspended Solids event will receive free t-shirts.

Close to the city are an open day at Karapiro Power Station and a night walk on Mt Maungatautari, along with a tour of an earth home, a fishing contest, a Keep Te Awamutu Beautiful display, an evening bush walk in Pirongia Forest Park and a Harvest Festival in Te Awamutu.

A diary of all events throughout the Region is included in Environment Waikato’s current EnviroCare magazine, available throughout the city and on the web at www.explorefestival.co.nz.