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Source: Massey University


The marine reserve was created in 1990 and covers 745,000 ha and supports New Zealand’s only truly subtropical marine systems.


Three Massey staff members are about to embark on a scientific voyage of discovery to the Kermadec Islands / Rangitāhua as part of BLAKE’s fifth BLAKE Expeditions programme.

Marine ecologists Associate Professor David Aguirre and Dr Libby Liggins as well as PhD candidate Irene Middleton will join fifteen young New Zealanders and five school teachers as well as other world-class scientists and environmental leaders on the voyage.

HMNZS Canterbury departs Auckland on 1 March and will return on 12 March 2021. The student crew consists of 15 high school and university students from Dunedin to Kerikeri. Each student and teacher delegate has previously participated in BLAKE’s annual BLAKE Inspire or BLAKE Inspire for Teachers programmes.

Located halfway between New Zealand and Tonga, the Kermadec Islands/Rangitāhua is one of New Zealand’s largest fully protected marine reserves and identified as one of only four pristine marine ecosystems on Earth, fully functioning with a unique mix of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate species of fish.

The Kermadec Islands are 1,000 km northeast of New Zealand and are a significant conservation area for both New Zealand and the world. They’re the visible surface of a chain of about 80 volcanoes, stretching between Tonga and New Zealand. The current marine reserve was created in 1990 and covers 745,000 ha and supports New Zealand’s only truly subtropical marine systems.

BLAKE Expedition Director Jacob Anderson says we have much to learn from Rangitāhua and its thriving ecosystems to help us address climate and ecological challenges now and in the future:

“Rangitāhua’s marine environment has not been comprehensively researched, there are many new discoveries when people visit the islands. We need to understand how the whole ecosystem works, so we can detect how sensitive it is to environmental change.

 “This voyage is a once in a lifetime opportunity for delegates to combine marine science and research with an ocean adventure on board a Royal New Zealand Navy ship. During the voyage they’ll encounter marine wildlife most people will never see in their lifetime. They’ll work alongside scientists from Massey University, NIWA and Auckland Museum and be exposed to hands-on marine research and leadership development opportunities.

“Sir Peter Blake was passionate about young people experiencing the environment through adventure and participation, and in turn becoming lifelong and passionate advocates for it. At BLAKE we aim to continue his legacy through programmes like BLAKE Expeditions,” says Jacob.

HMNZS CANTERBURY Commanding Officer CDR Martin Walker said the Royal New Zealand Navy had a special partnership with BLAKE and the crew was looking forward to having the expedition members on the ship.

“Rangitāhua is a unique environment and they’ll gain first-hand knowledge about marine ecosystems and the important conservation work going on there. We hope their experience of life on board a Navy ship is also something they will remember forever.”

This voyage marks 20 years since Sir Peter’s own ‘Blakexpeditions’, which sailed to Antarctica, the Tierra del Fuego and the Amazon to inspire and motivate people to care for our natural environment and to understand the issues it faces.

BLAKE Expeditions is made possible with the help of programme partners including the Royal New Zealand Navy, NIWA, Massey University and Auckland Museum.

The Kermadec Islands are 1,000 km northeast of New Zealand and are a significant conservation area.

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