WDHB celebrates Upokongaro School becoming 'water only'

2 September 2016

From left to right: Nathanial, Kytana, Elizabeth, Seamus, Kereama, Tiara-Mae, Marima, Moetahi. Front: Sam, Ashdyn and Tumanako.
Upokongaro School and Whanganui District Health Board have a lot to celebrate. Besides becoming an official ‘water only’ school, Upokongaro School has become the first Whanganui school able to claim ‘water only’ status.
School principal Warren Brown and WDHB nutrition and physical activity health promotion officer Karney Herewini were delighted to hear last week, the school board had given Mr Brown the mandate for the school to officially become ‘water only’.
“While the school’s 91 Year 1 to 8 students and staff had been practising ‘water only’ for the last 18 months it means a great deal to us to be able to officially call ourselves ‘water only’,” Mr Brown says.
“Our parents and children have really embraced our commitment to move in this direction so I’m delighted that the board of trustees support our desire to be ‘water only’.
“Because we’ve been practising ‘water only’ for 18 months little will change but what we hope this might do is encourage other schools to follow our lead.”
Mr Herewini says he shares Mr Brown’s feeling of pride and the fact that Upokongaro School made a commitment and followed it through.
“Warren is doing great work promoting healthy living for the school’s children and the wider school community,” Mr Herewini says.
“Upokongaro School is a Sunsmart Accredited School through the Cancer Society; an official Heart Foundation Heart Start School for their adoption of healthy eating and physical activity; an offfcial  Swimming New Zealand Swim Safe School and a school where kids are encouraged to bring sandwiches, fruit and water to school which I know parents and the wider school community are really supporting.
“Further to this, in the lead-up to Pae Tamariki (a celebration of school kapa haka groups) hosted by Upokongaro School on 9 September, they plan to promote ‘water only’ to the 1000 kids, hundreds of families and 12 schools across the Whanganui district taking part.”
Mr Herewini says he has the utmost respect for Mr Brown and his determination that Upokongaro School students will benefit from a combination of water, healthy food and exercise.
“I certainly think students are achieving better for this or that we have some students who are exceeding expectations due to a healthy diet, exercise and the programmes we deliver,” Mr Brown says.
“Our parents know that sending their kids to school with a healthy lunch is a key part of the jigsaw that’s needed to get the best outcome for their kids.
“At the start of this year we joined the Fruit in Schools programme which is part of the Kids Can initiative to provide fruit for school children twice a week. So we do have some wonderful things going on in our school. And we enjoy working with the DHB in projects such as ‘water only’ and enjoy being able to celebrate our successes with them.”

When WDHB nutrition and physical activity health promotion officer Karney Herewini heard the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education announce early this year that they were launching the Water Only Schools initiative, he was on board.

Ideally, Mr Herewini would like to see all 71 schools in the Whanganui district become ‘water only’ so to try and achieve this, he helped develop the joint WDHB, Heart Foundation and Healthy Families Water Only Schools tool kit. 

Mr Herewini says while a number of schools such as Orautoha School near Raetihi have been practising ‘water only’ for many years, the next step is to look at strengthening this practice by adopting a formal policy.
Schools interested in becoming a Water Only School receive a toolkit, a follow-up phone call and ongoing support from Mr Herewini or the Healthy Families team.

Mr Herewini’s school visits involve looking at what he calls the ‘Three Ps’.
  • Practice – asking the school about its current approach to water only.
  • Policy and procedure – working with the school to put a formal policy and procedure in place to guide their water only efforts.
  • Promotion – helping the school to celebrate and promote that they are water only. This includes Karney attending a school assembly to award the school a water only certificate, posters and a visual record of the school’s journey towards becoming water only.
By mid-August this year, Orautoha School became the first official Water Only School in the Ruapehu area and in the wider WDHB region and on 24 August, Upokongaro School became the first in Whanganui. By the end of August Mosston, Te  Kura O Ngati Rangi (Ohakune) and Te Wainui A Rua Schools were in the process of asking their board of trustees to ratify their official water only policies.