The students learned some interesting things about Whangarei during their visit. They also soon found out that the weather is much colder in New Zealand than it is in Rarotonga this time of the year - and that the roads are better.
But one thing the Cook Islands and New Zealand have in common, they discovered, is pollution.
Whangarei’s Huanui College and Titikaveka College may be an ocean apart but both schools have collaborated on a sustainability project focusing on the impact pollution has on land and sea. Huanui College students visited Titikaveka College late last year.
Fifteen-year-old Titikaveka College pupil Mary Ngamata said while the weather was different, and getting from one place to another was not as simple as just going clockwise or anti-clockwise as you do in Rarotonga, the students had been having fun.
“It’s been really fun and really cold too. Everyone’s getting sick. But so far I’m enjoying it and I don’t want to go home yet,” she said during her visit.
Brenda Rudolph, principal of the junior college at Huanui College, said the relationship between the two schools started while she was teaching at another school on Rarotonga and was asked if she could foster a relationship between Huanui and a school in the Cook Islands.
“I did some work with sustainability over there. It’s great for students to see the impact of pollution on smaller islands.”
Ngamata learned that Whangarei faced similar pollution problems to Rarotonga.
“We’ve been looking at how we can keep our environment clean, how we can sustain it. We have problems (in Rarotonga) with littering in the schools and pollution, from businesses like restaurants and hotels, going into the lagoon,” she said.
During their New Zealand visit the students took part in a range of activities, from visiting the Marsden Point oil refinery to playing Laser Maze.
“We also planted trees and helped get rid of invasive plants which could have endangered lives of the trees we planted.
“We went to Matapouri Beach and did a really long walk in bare feet.”
For the first two days, the students stayed at Ngunguru Marae where they were welcomed with a powhiri (traditional New Zealand Maori welcome).
Ngamata, who is part New Zealand Maori, said she was glad her classmates were able to experience the other side of her culture.
“The (marae visit) was a first-time thing for them, so it was really exciting.”
On Thursday Titikaveka College gave Huanui College a taste of the Cook Islands through music, dancing and haka.
The students arrived back on Rarotonga on Friday of last week and began term three this week.