An initiative trialled at Tāwharanui Regional Park in 2018/19 was so successful that the troops have rallied again to increase visitors’ understanding and awareness of all that surrounds them. TOSSI members love the great outdoors so much that they willingly volunteered to spend their summer days at Anchor Bay, using an impressive mobile diorama (three dimensional model) to open the eyes of park visitors.
Beachgoers are diverted from their jaunt to the surf or bush walk and lured to the trailer-load of endangered and important birds and bush that are found and protected at Tāwharanui. Don’t worry – they’re not real birds, just really good graphic recreations. While people of all ages gaze at the uniquely New Zealand fauna, TOSSI volunteers are on hand during summer weekends and public holidays, from 10am to 2pm, to share stories about the exhibit and sanctuary.
Onlookers are genuinely blown away by the diorama and often they excitedly venture off to explore the Ecology Bush with their eyes and ears wide open – seeking a real life encounter with a rare bird. Some visitors are second generation Tāwharanui fans, with the parents learning about conservation at the park when they were young and now their offspring are on a similar journey. The number of global visitors and those from the furthest backblocks of Aotearoa makes TOSSI volunteers fluff their feathers with joy. It feels good to spread the word about one of New Zealand’s finest examples of protected biodiversity that is openly accessible to all.
Fellow conservationists have photographed the TOSSI diorama trailer with the vision of creating a similar exhibit to help educate visitors at their own ecological gems. During the summer evenings and when TOSSI volunteers take some time out, the trailer is parked at the Tāwharanui campground and obliging Auckland Council camp hosts volunteer to share information with campers.
It’s not just beachgoers and trail wanderers who benefit from the interactive educational tool. Youngsters come to Tāwharanui with Auckland Zoo’s education programme and Auckland schools come for overnight camps or one-day excursions. Other educational groups include Forest & Bird Kiwi Conservation Club, Guides and Scouts. TOSSI’s trailer is shared with everyone and used to build on students’ science curriculum and environmental awareness. As well as learning about conservation and regeneration, the young visitors are given an insight into what it means to volunteer and what TOSSI has achieved throughout two decades. They learn about the impact they can achieve by planting trees to create habitats for threatened wildlife and plants, and how they can protect Aotearoa from predators and pests. When visitors return to the trailer with their own exciting story about spotting wētā, takahē or tīeke, TOSSI knows they’ve helped someone see the environment with a more mindful and observant eye. Job done.