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Published: 2002-02-18 00:00:00

Free vehicle emission tests, estuary tours, teachers’ workshops, night bush walks and river kayaking have been organised by Environment Waikato to celebrate the Festival of the Environment next month.

The Regional Council is a major sponsor of the nine-day festival, which runs from March 8 – 17 and includes interactive and action packed events, displays and stalls, and high profile entertainment. The festival is in its fourth year and aims to raise environmental awareness as well as make environmental improvements around the Region.

City, District and the Regional Council, environmental groups, community organisations and local schools are organising their own events, with everything from fashion to food and adventure.

Environment Waikato’s events include free emission testing for petrol, diesel and gas vehicles at Hamilton’s Pak ‘N’ Save car park in Clarence St on March 9,10, 16 and 17. There will also be information on how to improve fuel economy, reduce engine wear and extend vehicle life while cleaning up the air.

People getting a warrant of fitness at the Hamilton WOF station in Brooklyn Rd during March 11-15 can also get a free emission test.

If you’ve never seen the Waikato River from the water, there’s a chance to kayak from Malcolm St to the Pukete boat ramp with the experts. During the trip Environment Waikato staff will help you explore the river’s animal and plant life and provide information about the quality of the water. Staff from Camp ‘N’ Kayak will provide the equipment and the kayaking expertise.

The trips – on Saturday, March 16 at 1.30pm and Sunday, March 17 at 10am - cost $5 a person.

The mysteries of estuaries will be revealed during a free tour of the Whangamata, Wharekawa and Firth of Thames estuaries on Sunday, March 10. There is a free bus from Hamilton’s Eastside Tavern car park at 8am and the tour leaves Whangamata at 10am from the Whangamata wharf.

Estuaries are some of the country’s most at-risk coastal areas and staff from Environment Waikato, Thames Coromandel District Council, Department of Conservation and NIWA will explain their importance and the issues that affect them. The event is held in conjunction with Seaweek, and if wet, will be postponed to March 24.

Learn more about beaches and the dunes at a Regional Beachcare Day on March 9 at Tairua. The all day event will include a seminar and field trip to look at beach and dune environments, as part of Seaweek.

Families are invited to join a free night walk at Pirongia on Monday, March 11 to see what happens in streams and the forest after dark. The walk begins from Pirongia Forest Park Lodge at 7pm, with supper to follow. It is open to children over the age of nine.

A workshop will be held for teachers on experiential education on March 11 at Pirongia Forest Park Lodge. The one-day workshop will show how experiential education can be used as a tool to help students understand the values and emotions of environmental education.

Other Festival events include the annual Trash to Fashion show, Business and the Environment Awards co-ordinated by the Waikato Environmental Business Network, a “green scene” workshop for young people, organic food and wine tasting and riverbank clean ups.