Community outreach

Return of the white ngutukākā

The white-flowered ngutukākā (kakabeak) was recently returned to the East Coast’s Te Reinga Marae in May, long after becoming extinct in the wild. Ngutukākā is New Zealand's most widely recognised endangered indigenous plant.

Scion nursery staff nurtured the plant back from near extinction after being given seeds from the estate of a seed collector that proved to be those of the extinct white ngutukākā from the Wairoa provenance. The project took four years.

About 30 white ngutukākā have now been planted at the marae. A spokesperson of Te Reinga Marae said although the plant was now home, it did not mean the end of its journey. “The next part of the course is for us to get to know the ngutukākā and understand what it needs not just to survive, but to thrive.”

As a research nursery, the Scion nursery is perfectly placed to develop and test new methods to propagate endangered plants. Scion has been involved with ngutukākā recovery and the Ngutukākā Network since 2009 and has also been growing red-flowered ngutukākā of known provenance for transplantation back in to protected areas.

Scientists in the making

Kim McGrouther from our Clean Technologies Team mentored two young students from Whakarewarewa School to prepare a poster for the Science Communicators Association of New Zealand (SCANZ) 2015 Conference. The students, Brooklyn Le Comte and Te Aomihia Reedy, were runners-up in the poster section.

The theme of the conference was engaging society and sharing knowledge.  Brooklyn and Te Aomihia’s poster, titled ‘Talking to Nanny and Koro’, focused on the benefits of Rongoā; traditional Māori medicine using the kawakawa plant. Kim says they were the youngest presenters; the other presenters were students from universities or researchers from CRIs. The experience was part of our two-year Mātauranga Whakarewarewa programme, which aims to build a strong science learning linkage between Scion and the school into the future.

Some of our scientists also visited the school to talk about plastics as part of the school’s science curriculum. Students were shown various samples of bioploymers, such as wood polymer composites, PLA foam cycle helmet and beads, a biospife and wood/kiwifruit plant pots that they could handle. The concepts of recycling and polymer shelf-life were discussed, along with the differences between petroleum-based polymers and biopolymers.

Curious Minds and biotechnology

Over 100 Year 6 - 8 students from eight Rotorua schools attended Scion’s MBIE-funded Unlocking Curious Minds project, “our Biotech future”.

The event aimed to introduce biotechnology to young students from low decile schools by showing students how it was involved in their daily lives and what impact it was likely to have on their future.

The topics of the day included an introduction to biotechnology, students extracting DNA from strawberries, plant biotechnology and fermentation. The workshops were full of lively discussions and questions, and the students showed a great enthusiasm for science.

“Thanks so much for allowing ten of our Year 6 students to participate. They absolutely loved it.
We really liked how the sessions were hands on and the fact that the students also had the freedom to create some magic themselves - without the very adequate supervision being over protective. Creating the DNA from strawberries was a particular highlight for most of our students. A huge thank you from St Mary's Catholic School.”

St Mary’s Catholic School, Rotorua


Scion’s five Futureintech ambassadors hosted visits to Scion and also visited various schools throughout the year. These included:

  • Two visits were made to Broadlands Primary school to talk about science to around 100 young students, with further visits made to Rotorua Girls High School.
  • Two classes of students from Rotorua Boys High School visited Scion.
  • An ambassador attended Sunset Primary School on three occasions to mentor Year 4-6 students in science as part of the MindPlus Rotorua programme for gifted children.
  • One of our ambassadors mentored two Year 13 students from John Paul College towards achieving their Silver team CREST award. Their research involved isolating nitrogen-fixing organisms from soil samples, and testing them on seedlings to see if they can improve seedling growth compared to conventional fertilisers. This work was entered into the Bay of Plenty Science Fair (in August 2016).
  • CREST (CREativity in Science and Technology) is run by the Royal Society of New Zealand and is designed to encourage Year 0-13 students to be innovative, creative and to problem solve in science and technology.

Rotorua Careers Expo

Scion participated in the three-day Rotorua Careers Expo with a very hands-on display aimed at encouraging students to consider science as a worthwhile and fun career. In addition to experiments in action, bugs under a microscope, plant and tactile wood product samples, students had the chance to go into a draw to win a day with a scientist.

Five winners from about 200 entrants, along with an accompanying support person, spent the day at Scion gaining a better understanding of indigenous forestry, forest protection, genetics and clean technologies. See more at:


The following conferences and events received Scion sponsorship during the year:

  • NIWA Bay of Plenty Science Fair
  • Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association regional meetings
  • WasteMINZ Conference and Expo
  • NZ Ecological Society Conference
  • ForestWood 2016
  • Forest Genetics for Productivity Conference
  • NZ Farm Foresters Association Conference
  • Engineered Timber Conference.

Investment in industry events helps to keep Scion’s science and technology capabilities in front of key audiences, and provides opportunities to build networks and exchange knowledge within and between science and end user communities. In addition to sponsorship, our scientists also presented at many of these conferences and also staffed trade displays.

Telling our stories

We published another four issues of Scion’s quarterly newsletter, Scion Connections. Many of the articles written for Scion Connections are broadcast further afield by other media, such as forestry related trade magazines and online industry networks.

Scion Connections is provided in hard copy and as an electronic newsletter, with 1180 subscribers as at 30 June 2016.

We also share our stories via LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. You are welcome to join our online community.