Have you met Holly? A BLAKE Inspire Alumni on her journey as a kaitiaki guided by a Māori worldview
Article | Taking Action
December 1, 2021
BLAKE Inspire Alumni, environmentalist and innovator, yoga enthusiast, and high school student!


We caught up with this incredible rangatahi to hear about her journey since her BLAKE Inspire programme concluded and what her time at Inspire meant for her. She has hit the ground running executing on her action plan to establish an outdoor learning space which infuses western science with Mātauranga Māori. She hopes that making nature a part of learning will foster a perspective where our actions are viewed in the context of their impacts on nature, and that the deeply intricate connections between land, moana, and Mauri are at the core of sustaining our planet and facing the challenges of climate change.

“If we can take this wisdom and integrate it into our modern world, it generates a potent way of forming understanding that can drive more care”


Holly, 17, is in year 12 at Long Bay College in Auckland.
What project are you working on? Can you tell us about it?

I’m creating an outdoor learning space with a regenerative garden, workshops, and outdoor classroom at my school, Long Bay College.


Can you talk about the significance of intertwining Mātauranga Māori and Western science, especially in today’s context (climate change, biodiversity loss etc)? What motivated you to make this project happen?

There’s a quote by Dallis Willard which is “Understanding is the basis of care, in order to care for something, you must first understand it, whether it be a garden or a nation.” As humans, our emotion helps us to understand issues and encourages us to act. However, Western science looks at our world in a fact-based way, using data and analytics which lack emotion, making it hard for people to feel a connection to the science. Mātauranga Māori is traditional Māori knowledge which can be used to explain many of the environmental issues we face today. It is a powerful way of looking at environmental issues because it personifies nature, recognising our connectedness to the land and the Mauri (life force) that the land holds. By looking at climate change and biodiversity loss through the lens of Mātauranga, we see nature as a living being, not just a structure of processes. When we see that each part of nature is intricately connected, we can look towards sustaining nature as a whole, not just viewing each element as individual to the other.

I’ve written a short story about the connection between the carbon cycle and the Māori creation story because everyone learns in a different way. Some people need facts and figures, whereas others need stories. Through intertwining the carbon cycle with the Māori creation story it creates a new way of understanding climate change. The Atua (Māori Gods) represent the movement of carbon, showing the fragile balance of carbon between the land and the atmosphere which must be maintained, in order to create a new way of understanding climate. The creation story and other aspects of Mātauranga Māori are deeply embedded with wisdom reaching back thousands of years. If we can take this wisdom and integrate it into our modern world, it generates a potent way of forming understanding that can drive more care.

What motivated you to pursue BLAKE Inspire?

At the time of applying for BLAKE inspire, I didn’t know many young people who were interested in environmental issues. Not knowing other young people made it hard to keep my momentum as I felt like my actions were too small and I was one of the only people who ‘actually cared’. I also had only explored the environmental issues surrounding climate change, so wanted to dive further into other issues like marine health, biodiversity loss, and freshwater decline.

What was your most valuable take away from BLAKE Inspire? How has this programme supported you in your endeavours?

You can learn so much from simply talking to people. Having conversations with like-minded people opens your eyes to new ways of looking at the world, and new ways to go about creating solutions. By talking to people throughout the week I realised just how much I had to learn. The combination of activities and discussions taught me way more than I would ever learn in a week at school. At the end of the week, we created action plans. Our actions plans we based on the SMART goals and focused on what we wanted to achieve after the programme. Conversations I had with Leigh Takirau (BLAKE Kaihautū Māori Manager) and Frazer Dale (Senior Sustainable School’s Advisor for Auckland Council) helped me to develop an idea into tangible steps for my action plan which was to create an outdoor classroom and workshop series which weaves Mātauranga Māori with western science. Even one year after BLAKE inspire, they are still supporting me to make this plan into a reality.

Sky is the limit evidently! What is next for you?

There is a Māori whakataukī (proverb) which says “Ko ahau te taiao, ko te taiao, ko ahau. It’s means “I am nature; nature is me.” I think that connection to nature is important in creating environmental change. If we see ourselves as separate from nature, then we see our actions as not having an impact. However, if we see ourselves as apart of nature, then we realise how connected our actions are to nature. My next step is to create the outdoor classroom which will act as a space which makes nature apart of learning. With the outdoor classroom, I hope to create a more interactive space where people can spend time learning about regenerative gardening in a way which infuses western science with Māturanga Māori. Because after all, understanding is the basis of care.