Two of the winners of the recently announced Northland Regional Council Environmental Awards have a strong NorthTec link.
These annual awards recognise the people and organisations behind the work being done to protect and enhance the environment in Te Tai Tokerau, and this year the Mountains To Sea Conservation Trust (MTSCT) won both the Te Tohu Matua Supreme Award plus the Environmental Action in the Community Award.
MTSCT was initiated primarily as an educational trust nearly 20 years ago and has programmes focusing on restoration of the marine eco-system as well as the freshwater catchments from the mountains to the sea.
The two co-directors of the programme are both graduates of NorthTec’s Diploma in Environmental Management. Samara Nicholas founded and leads the trust’s marine programmes, Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR), that won the awards this year, while Kim Jones leads the freshwater programme which won the Environmental Action in Water Quality Improvement Award two years ago. Samara, along with former NorthTec staff member Vince Kerr, was also among the four foundation members of the MTSCT.
Samara says the team loves watching the programmes in action: “We’re passionate about empowering schools and communities to protect their marine environments by giving them hands-on experience in the ocean. Our biggest buzz is seeing the look on kids’ faces when they come out of the sea on our guided snorkel days. The events are run in partnership with hapū and other communities, and the days often wrap up with a locally hosted barbecue, so they’re a great way of keeping the community engaged in protecting their own environments.
“We now have two marine reserves within Whangārei Harbour, at Reotahi and Waikaraka, so communities can experience our marine bio-diversity first-hand through our programmes. Our team’s mahi in the last five years has resulted in widespread community participation in our programmes, and we’re always looking at ways to improve how we deliver them and to encourage the community to become citizen scientists.
“Hapū have a strong voice in marine biodiversity programmes and public snorkelling days, and we offer the opportunity for taitamariki/rangatahi who have an affinity for the moana, to engage in mentorship programmes and volunteer development which can support a career pathway.”
Kim adds: “It’s fantastic to see the EMR programme celebrated, and the win signals an increasing awareness of marine conservation in Northland. Through Samara’s inspirational leadership, the programme has now expanded into seven other regions as well as South Australia.”