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Published: 2016-06-15 00:00:00

A planting partnership between an award-winning Waikato farmer and children from his local school is bearing environmental fruit on many levels.

Children from Tauwhare School between Hamilton and Cambridge recently visited dairy farmer Frank Portegys’ Scotsman Valley Rd farm for the fourth year on the trot to plant trees designed to protect waterways.

The visits to Frank’s farm have been part of Tauwhare’s participation in the Enviroschools programme, which is supported by Waikato Regional Council. The council has also provided some $1500 in financial support to Frank under the Piako catchment’s new works programme aimed at protecting waterways from the effects of farming. Over the years, more than 1000 trees have been planted with school and council assistance on the property’s wetlands and besides its waterways.

Tauwhare’s Enviroschools lead teacher Linda Cook – who praises Frank’s assistance for the schools’ programme - says the children get a lot out of visiting the farm.

“The benefit for the children is it’s embedding understanding around the importance of clean waterways. And, also, they’re getting to do work of direct benefit in their local area, and they can see the plants growing over time,” says Linda.

Frank says he’s very keen to protect waterways in the area and enhance the environment generally, and is grateful for the pupils’ help.

“If you ask everyone they always want clean water. If you don’t do it properly, dairying is going to have effect on water,” says Frank, whose property has won awards in the Waikato section of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Council catchment management officer Warren Coffey says farmers can apply for up to 35 per cent of the costs of fencing and planting to protect and enhance waterways and wetlands, as well as soil conservation work such as preventing steep hillside erosion.

“It’s our way of supporting famers to make changes on their property that help provide environmental benefits for the wider community.”

Ruairi Kelly, the council’s schools programmes coordinator, said the visits have enabled the Tauwhare children to learn about both the environment and farming.

“Tauwhare has done really well under Enviroschools – they’re a high-ranking Green-Gold school.

“Enviroschools in the Waikato Region is supported by a team of facilitators who work with schools to engage on a long-term journey of learning and action over environmental issues. The work of Frank’s farm has been a great partnership between a proactive and caring farmer, and a school that’s been working really well on the environmental protection front.”