Celebrating Environment Day in Nukunonu, Tokelau on 30 June 2017

Eday4-450 Environment Day 30 June 2017 was a successful and exciting day for the whole village of Nukunonu in Tokelau. It generated an Environment atmosphere whereby every individual contributed, ranging from Matiti School students, Fatupaepae women’s association, village workforce (aumaaga taulelea), and public servants, up to the grey hair elders. Special emphasis was on the importance of the theme “CONNECT TO NATURE”.

A lot of tireless effort and determined preparations on the way in the lead up to Environment Day was also completed. Christian Perez, the Nukunonu Environment Officer, conducted various community awareness consultations through EDNRE with the Taupulega, te Nofoalua (Pulenuku and Faipule), Matiti School staff and students, Fatupaepae, Sports Association, Nukunonu Youth, and Waste management team. This was to inform the village about this important day.
As a result it inspired our community to all come together and take united action. Tha call to “Connect to Nature”. aims to sustain our environment, that holds such a significant place in our Tokelauan way of life: in all aspects and values that we uphold such as culture, and traditions.

Timeline of Events. Preparations leading up to Environment Day 30th June 2017, Nukunonu
These are the preparations completed through our EDNRE department by the environment officer, Christian Perez

12 June 2017 - Visited Matiti School. Conducted a presentation to all students, giving them an insight to what will be happening on Environment Day 30th June. Invited them to engage in the Environment day competition, encouraging them with ideas that link towards the them categorized from Years 1-3 (Short Poem writing) Years 4-6 (Poster) Years 7-9 (Short Speech) Years 10-11 (Essay writing). Gave a deadline to when everything will be collected (29 June 2017) and marked. It was important that I worked closely with Matiti Principal and staff in designing the criteria which was successfully completed.

14 June 2017 - Visited Fatupaepae (Womens association Nukunonu). Requested if they could kindly take the leading role in catering and responsible for preparing the morning tea and lunch meals on the day. Approval given. Was really heart-warming and overwhelmed from their supportive response.

16 June 2017 - Presentation of EDNRE paper to Taupulega regarding the celebration of Environment Day. All accepted/approved and gave their blessing. Given that it is a great opportunity to all work together on the day, and engage in Connecting to Nature, all respective Matai and te Nofoalua (Pulenuku and Faipule) supported our paper.

22 June 2017 - Visited the Health Department. Requested that they will be given an opportunity to present on the day, within the programme for Environment Day. Approval was given by the Director Mrs Silivia Tavite, whereby Pita Tavite will give a presentation, emphasising the importance of Environment Day and its theme Connect to Nature.

23 June 2017 - Arrival of Environment Day materials provided by EDNRE (banner, t-shirts, rubbish sacks). Collected and stored at office

27 June 2017 - Giving out of t-shirts Connect to Nature, Environment Day 30th June 2017. Matiti School, representatives of the Taupulega, Fatupaepae and the public.

28 June 2017 - Matiti School competition entries collected and marked by judges who assembled at Talikilagi to complete the task.The selection of the judges was based on strong advice given by the school principal and te Nofoalua. The judging panel consisted of three judges. The Taupulega representative was the acting Faipule Mr Zak Patelesio. Matiti School representative was vice Principal Mrs Pule Aloisio. Health department representative was Mr Lahalo Sakaria.

29 June 2017 - Continuation of marking by the Judges. Around 4pm the Kautafafao Sports Association of Nukunonu and its members, gathered at Talikilagi to clean up and prepare the setup at Talikilagi for Environment day (following day). Cleaning the area, setting up the banner, chairs, tables and other equipment. Usage of pot plants, plants were collected from Vao area, to inspire the importance of Environment day and its theme Connect to Nature. Displaying Matiti School student entries, posters, poems, essays were also attached on the Talikilagi poles, for all to see. The idea was to, again, emphasise the importance of Environment Day, Connecting to Nature through the students ideas. It was very eye-catching. Fatupaepae also assembled at Talikilagi in the evening and stayed the night, in order to ensure the morning tea and lunch meal preparations were successfully organised.
Environment Day Nukunonu on 30 June 2017 started off with a loud bang! In saying this, an early morning vakai announcement (callout message through the whole nuku, using the ultra sound speaker) was done from Motuhaga all the way to fale. To remind the village that the Taulelea/aumaaga will start from Motuhaga, all the way to Vao in collecting rubbish throughout the village, and sorted out at the waste centre located at Vao under the sharp supervision of the waste management team leader Mr Tufele Tufele and his gang.

Meanwhile the students and parents, along with the strong support from the Health department were all involved in planting trees ranging from coconuts, breadfruit, pawpaw, pua tress and other various plants around their vegetation area near Matiti School towards Vao.

These were the first main two activities in the programme for Environment Day that I had designed, completed in the morning for approximately 3-4 hours starting from 7.30am-11.30am. Furthermore, it is the very link that was accomplished through our village activity towards emphasising the theme Connect to Nature, that every individual actioned on the day. “The importance of Tokelau to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and to take a forward call to protect its vulnerable environment”.

After the rubbish collecting and student planting was completed, everyone assembled at Talikilagi for the morning tea meal served by Fatupaepae. The opening of the Environment Day “Connecting to Nature” Nukunonu. Rev. Salesio stated before his opening prayer “in the book of Genesis, in the beginning Adam and Eve were chosen by God to supervise, nurture and care for the beautiful Garden of Eden, also to bear fruits and look after the land. From this it is important that we continue to uphold these values from Gods teachings, that we are solely responsible for our own Environment. Connecting to Nature, it is truly important that we get outdoors and acknowledge the beauty and scenery, not only that but to feel the challenge to urgently take action. Action as in, how our students have done such a wonderful job in planting trees to protect our land, and to nurture/bear fruits as stated in the bible from the book of Genesis. It is important that we all contribute in Connecting to Nature, both spiritually, mentally and physically.”

After the official opening by Rev Salesio Lui as stated in the programme, the opportunity was given by the MC of the day, Mr Amanaki Tavite (vice president of Nukunonu youth) to the grey hairs toeaina matua on behalf of te Nofoalua and the Taupulega, Nui Tumua. Nui acknowledged the tireless efforts from team EDNRE and encouraged this event to continue throughout the coming years. It is important for Nukunonu from infant to elder to Connect to Nature, and the urgency to protect our environment.

This was followed by a presentation from myself (attached) to re-emphasise the importance of Environment Day, in joining the world celebrating as a whole. I also touched on the history/background, stating this is the first introduced by EDNRE working closely with Taupulega in making this important event happen. Most of all the importance of the theme “Connect to Nature”.

Health Department also played their role, and delivered a very inspiring presentation that basically covered the explaining of the theme. They called for our community to be very protective of our environment including our marine environment. (Health presentation attached).
At 1pm lunch was served by the Fatupaepae.

By 1.30pm accordingly to the programme outline, the MC announced that the opportunity has come for Matiti School and staff. The Principal and staff opened with a beautiful drama conducted by herself and all the staff from all the school teachers. They acted out a play, conveying the important message delivered to everyone present the importance of planting trees. It was a very eye catching performance from Matiti School staff in leading a great example of the teachers putting in their 5 cents for the day, putting up a show that everyone enjoyed. This was followed by presenting the awards to the students whom competed in the competitions from Years 1-11. They were also given an opportunity to present their colourful and meaningful works on the day. It was also one of the main highlights of the day, whereby the students strongly engaged the village in emphasising the important message of the theme “Connecting to Nature” through short poems, posters, short speeches and essay writing.
Afternoon tea was served afterwards, and followed by the Village competitions, divided into the three main settlement areas of Motuhaga, Alatua and Alatai. The purpose was for the groups to come up with ideal fatele and a drama that directly links to the Environment Day especially its given theme “Connect to Nature”. The items were very creative, and the community done a great job in coming up with fateles, showing how great the support was.

Lastly but not the least it came to an end, as they say all good things must come to an end. The acting Faipule Mr Zak Sakaria once again concluded the importance of Environment Day in Nukunonu. He challenged the community to continue this great progress for the good of our atoll. He acknowledged and thanked EDNRE along with the overwhelming support from our whole village. Please take note that there was no cameraman on the day but I did manage to take photos from my phone and will send them to EDNRE Facebook page to be uploaded. From my own personal experience during the day, I must admit that we achieved over or more than expected. There was very good feedback provided by the community and they all agree encouraging to continue this important day to mark the celebration of sustaining our Environment through activities such as planting etc etc. I was very inspired by the good turn out and support from Nukunonu, and I would like to thank our Manager Ms Loia for organising this event, our Minister Honourable Keli Kalolo, our Director Mika Perez for their approval and support. In saying this, I would like to especially thank all our staff, Environment officers, my respective colleagues as a whole, fakafetai lahi lele.
Story by:

Christian Perez
Nukunonu Environment Officer
Department of EDNRE