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    Rights: Dawson Primary School
    Published 20 June 2018 Referencing Hub media

    Students from Dawson Primary School explain the purpose and the process of redesigning a wētā house. Their prototype design is fit for wētā and for collecting scientific data.

    Dawson Primary School and Aorere College partnered with engineers from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. The project was funded through the South Auckland pilot of the Participatory Science Platform programme.



    Wētā are special to New Zealand, and there are 70 species in New Zealand. The Department of Conservation say that 16 species are at risk of extinction. We want to see wētā houses on school grounds to encourage the species to populate the area and to allow scientists to collaborate with us and access wētā to study in our local environment.

    Our project goal – redesign a wētā house that:

    • is more desirable to wētā
    • can exclude pests
    • allow scat collection for research
    • is able to be reproduced and easily distributed.

    Getting started. First, we found out the basics about wētā.


    See this thing that looks like a stinger? If you didn’t know any different, you would think that she could sting you, but that’s not what she uses that for. She uses that to lay her eggs into the soil.


    Josh and Mark are engineers from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. They worked with us to help us design our wētā houses. They 3D printed and laser cut our prototypes.

    After brainstorming our ideas, we started to refine them. We looked at what a wētā would need and must have in order to live inside a wētā house. For example:

    • How would the wētā enter and exit the wētā house?
    • What shape is it?
    • How would we place the wētā house in the trees?
    • In what ways could we collect the DNA from the wētā?
    • Would the wētā house have room in them?
    • Would the wētā be able to fit?

    We placed our houses around our school and in the grounds of Fisher & Paykel Healthcare. We have emailed some wētā experts and have asked them if they know any places where it might be good to place wētā homes. Thankfully they replied sooner than we expected. The experts kindly replied saying that they would love to help by placing some wētā homes.

    Dawson Primary School
    Aorere College
    Andy Heyward, 123RF Ltd
    Chris Winks, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research