Last week we all piled in the vans and headed up to Rotorua for the Lakes Water Quality Symposium. It was an opportunity to hear from scientists, farmers, conservationists, foresters, and citizens as to the challenges and opportunities of cleaning up the water in the lakes around Rotorua. We sat through two full days of talks from an amazing array of folks including a keynote from a Swedish mayor of “the greenest city in Europe,” the New
Zealand Minister of the Environment, and several top-notch scientists. The symposium was wonderfully organized and gave all of us a chance to really experience the “multi-perspective” thinking that we talk so much about in environmental studies. Here, we had farmers talking to foresters talking to geologists talking to eco-tourists, talking to conservationists, talking to developers. It was quite fascinating to observe from an “outsiders” perspective.
After the symposium, John and Anne (two of the organizers) offered to take us on a little Saturday excursion. They had heard about our story (Christchurch earthquake refugees and all) and
wanted to offer something a little special for our students to thank them for coming to the symposium. Well, it was some thank you! We arrived at a small dock on Lake Rotoiti and proceeded to board three boats on a picture perfect blue sky day. We traveled across the
lake, learning about their Nitrogen “wall” in the process that was built to divert Nitrogen from entering the lake. We finally docked at a lovely looking little bay where, to our amazement, there sat three thermal pools just above the lake shore. For the next 3 hours we relaxed in the pools, jumped in the refreshingly cold lake, and repeated it all over again. John, Anne, and other volunteers provided a lovely BBQ too- we were in heaven! What a great way to end a trip!
On the way home from Rotorua, we stopped by a more popular thermal area just to see what all the fuss was about. Seeing the volcanism that lies so close to the surface here is a reminder that we indeed sit on the “ring of fire” that has been causing this part of the world (Japan included) such heartache these last several months.
We are nearing the end of our time in Whanganui and it is bittersweet. We are beginning to get excited about returning home but we also realize what great connections we have made in our time here. Home stretch now!