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January 2016 Issue
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Bringing tangata and whenua together

Craig Pauling plans to plant the Canterbury Plains, one green dot at a time.

Craig Pauling, connecting people with landscapes. By Jamie Stewart

Craig Pauling paddles waka ama regularly on the Ōtākaro/Avon River and Lyttelton Harbour. At his local club, Te Waka Pounamu, he shares his passion with the next generation. Sport, he says, can connect you to the environment.

Waka ama has many aspects: the cultural traditions, the social opportunities, the intense competition. Craig, 39, firmly believes the sport can provide a time to learn from and gain understanding of the natural world: “Most of my knowing of these places comes down to my paddling,” he says.

This knowledge, Craig has applied to a string of successful ventures that attempt to build deeper connections between people and landscapes. He was a co-founder and instructor of Aoraki Bound, the Ngāi Tahu/Outward Bound course that guides participants on a hīkoi through Ngāi Tahu landscapes and culture. He is one of the forces behind Te Ara Kākāriki, an innovative conservation group that seeks to restore nature on the Canterbury plains one ‘green dot’ at a time. And as a member of the Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) Management Board, he hopes to contribute to an increasing uptake in traditional mahinga kai practices at the lake – traditional food and natural resources endangered by the degradation of waterways.

The young man that returned from a stint volunteering with the kākāpō recovery programme on Whenua Ho/Codfish Island to the “melancholy” of the devastated, and relatively barren Canterbury landscape, is on a journey with his family and friends to bring back vibrant nature to the waterways and plains. “I want to see our native species flourish, not just hang on,” he says. “They are our tuakana (or older cousins), they were here first, we must respect that.”
– Jamie Stewart is an outdoors writer and advocate. He works for the Federated Mountain Clubs