A commitment between Waikato-Tainui and Waikato District Council to co-manage the Waikato River by restoring and protecting its health and wellbeing is the driving force behind an inaugural scholarship announced late last year.
The Waikato District Council Waikato River Scholarship has been awarded to Okeroa Waaka, from Te Papatapu Marae near Kawhia and of Ngati Te Wehi.
Okeroa is studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in biological sciences with the University of Waikato and has a real passion for the environment and native species. On completion of her degree, the 20-year-old hopes to gain further knowledge and experience in environmental management and conservation.
Okeroa has her sights firmly set on undertaking research projects on her local moana, Aotea Harbour, where she has in interest in the state mudflat/wetland ecosystems. She is especially keen to bring about rejuvenation of the kaimoana that once thrived on the harbour’s mud flats.
“I am fully committed to creating my own future, and contributing to my hapuu and iwi,” she says.
Waikato Tainui Chief Executive Donna Flavell says Okeroa has the skills but more importantly the passion and “we are extremely pleased that she is the first ever recipient of this scholarship”.
In celebration of the scholarship, Waikato District Council Chief Executive Gavin Ion says it is fantastic to work with Waikato Tainui to offer opportunities such as these for the district’s young people.
“Young people like Okeroa are very inspiring. With such a passion for the environment, we look forward to following her career journey and who knows, perhaps one day she’ll be working here at Council,” Mr Ion says.
The Waikato District Council Waikato River Scholarship stems from Waikato Tainui and Waikato District Council’s Joint Management Agreement (JMA). The JMA affirms on areas of common interest.