DOC and Toyota aim to get kids away from the screen and into the green with Kiwi Guardians

Toyota and the Department of Conservation launched a campaign this week via Saatchi & Saatchi to get Kiwi kids away from their iPads and out into the wilderness to not only find joy in nature, but to get kids caring and thinking about the environment from a young age. 

The campaign, dubbed ‘Kiwi Guardians’ highlights family-friendly activities at specific sites that support kids to engage their senses, take risks and, ultimately, earn themselves a medal in the outdoors, a Saatchi & Saatchi release says.

A page on DOC’s website provides locations for kids to explore and ‘adventure maps’. Each Kiwi Guardians location has a different medal.

The ad for the campaign begins by letting the viewer admire sweeping views of New Zealand’s beautiful green landscapes and snowcapped mountains before showing a young girl inside on a sunny day looking at her iPad or tablet. An animated bird then comes to her window, in a seemingly Disney-inspired fashion, and lures her outdoors.

“Research has demonstrated that children can establish lifelong connections to nature if they actively engage with it between the ages of six and ten,” says DOC national outreach and education manager Sarah Murray.

“The idea allows young people to have ownership over our conservation land—to feel part of it and want to care for it into the future. It’s also about getting outside and having lots of fun.”

The programme is targeted towards families in large urban centres, which might not get out into nature as regularly as they should, to take advantage of nearby opportunities when they can.

There are currently 20 sites across New Zealand included in the programme, the release says, providing opportunities to residents in Auckland, Napier, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Christchurch and Dunedin, and an estimated 50 more sites will be operational by the end of 2016.

Toyota New Zealand chief executive Alistair Davis says Toyota is excited to be part of a programme that decreases screen time and increases nature time for kids, while encouraging young New Zealanders to conserve the natural environment.

“Like DOC, Toyota is passionate about making it easy for families to have great experiences in our national parks and reserves and realise they are worth protecting.”

A Toyota spokesperson says Toyota has committed long-term to this programme. It also says it’s been working with DOC on the programme for over a year but formalised the relationship with the launch of the campaign.

The incentive behind the campaign is a good one. It’s certainly important to get kids outside and conserve the environment, but there is always a slight tinge of incongruency when brands that continue to burn fossil fuels partner with environmental organisations (the issue of greenwashing often becomes a talking point in such instances, and was recently raised when Z announced the launch of its biodiesel plant).

Another organisation that also sees value in partnering with DOC is Air New Zealand, which has since 2012 spent around a $1 million annually on promoting the causes of the organisation.    

Since kicking off its partnership with DOC, Air New Zealand has helped the environmental organisation relocate 1,600 native species, while promoting tourism of New Zealand’s wildlife by helping DOC open nine walking tracks around the country.

The airline has also helped protect native species by implementing pest control across 800ha of conservation land on the Milford Track, laying 50kms of stoat trapping lines on the Routeburn Track, and 600 rat traps on the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island. 

The airline has also researched ways to reduce its carbon footprint and has outlined plans to reduce net emissions by 50 percent compared to the 2005 level.   

It also aims to conserve fuel by reducing the aircrafts’ weight, and use new technologies such as aerodynamic winglet tips, and is also looking into using alternative plant-based biofuels. 

Air New Zealand also invested in the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which uses 20 percent less fuel than other aeroplanes. By 2050, the airline aims to reduce its net emissions by 50 percent compared to the 2005 level. The airline announced last September that it would extend its partnership with DOC to 2020.

In 2013, DOC cut about 100 jobs as part of its controversial, $12.5 million restructure which split the organisation into two main groupings.

As part of the restructure it aimed to “do more with less” by encouraging businesses and the public to take part in conservation work. And, in some ways, the ability of the organisation to fulfill many of its objectives does rely on at least some corporate funding.   

Ex-CEO Alastair Morrison also said he saw business partnerships as a way for business to clean up their acts and get involved with environmental issues.

At a 2013, mining conference he told the audience DOC should include the business sector, to take some responsibility for the environment.

“We are gearing up for a new era of value exchange in which the public of New Zealand get a fair return for their investment in public conservation land, and nature’s balance is restored, enhanced and maintained,” he said.

“DOC is reframing its thinking and reorganising its business operating model around the trend. Companies that understand the growing public concern at the state of the natural environment, and operate in a way that shares that concern and accounts for it, are, in DOC’s books, the way of the future.”

Eighteen months after the restructure it reinstated some of those roles and tested new ways of working as a results of numerous flaws in the restructuring, according to Stuff.

A review by Australian consultancy Taribon in September and October 2014, which included a survey of 1,006 DOC staff, slated the restructure, blaming it for a breakdown in communication, inefficiencies, leadership difficulties and preventing DOC achieving its goal of significant steps towards conservation gains, Stuff reports.

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