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Once in a lifetime snorkel experience

A contribution by the Friends of Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve Trust

The Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) Te Kura Moana annual Poor Knights snorkel trip took place on Friday, 13 May. As in previous years, the trip was sponsored by Dive! Tutukaka and the Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation. Students came from as far north as Kerikeri and as far south as the Catlins in Otago. They were selected based on the action projects they undertook and the enthusiasm they showed when studying and experiencing the marine environment.

The national delivery of the EMR programme is supported by the Tindall Foundation. The Friends of Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve Trust is responsible for the delivery of EMR on the Coromandel Peninsula and Hauraki Plains.

EMR started in Tai Tokerau/Northland in 2001 with just three schools and the idea of comparing unprotected marine areas to fully protected marine reserves. Water safety messages are embedded throughout the programme. Seeing huge tāmure/ snapper swimming in the ocean has inspired thousands of children to take action for the marine environment and to exercise kaitiakitanga (guardianship) for their local beach or harbour.

Due to bad weather and the Covid-19 pandemic the Friends of Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve Trust could not run a full EMR programme over the course of the past few months and organised an “Ocean Art” competition instead. The purpose of the competition was to promote marine conservation and information about Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve. The competition was won by Daniel Vaughan of Mercury Bay Area School and Zander Allan Curnow of Parawai school.

This year, 31 students and 29 parents/caregivers from 22 schools participated in the Poor Knights trip. Special guests included representatives from non-profit organisation, Live Ocean, and Vanessa Grace with her stepson, who represented the legacy of and lifelong commitment to marine conservation by the late Dr Roger Grace.

Travelling on the vessel “Perfect Day”, the snorkel site was the Gardens at Maroro Bay. This part of the Poor Knights Islands has been protected by a no-take status since 1981. The participants were delighted to see thousands of two spot demoiselles, black angel fish, snapper galore and the friendly sandagers wrasse. The conditions were like an aquarium.

It was the first time Daniel Vaughan and his father, Grant, visited the poor Knights. “I was excited to come here,” said Daniel. “It was really fun. I liked diving down and seeing all the fish. I saw an eagle ray, it was so close I could have dived down and touched it. I also saw a really cool jellyfish that was drifting along and had flashing lights on the side.”

Grant said his first look underwater was a shock. “The clarity of the water was a standout thing, so different to back home,” he said. “Daniel has really blown me away with the time and effort he put into his artwork. He spent days on it, the research he did and the way he portrayed the fish. I was super impressed and really happy for him that he got selected.”

Anyone who would like more information or to register their school’s interest in the EMR programme, must please contact Hauraki/Coromandel Regional Coordinator, Amber Boyd, email Donations can be made to The Friends of Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve Trust (Charities Services number CC43790), account number 03-1578 0095821-000.

Pictured is Mercury Bay Area School student, Daniel Vaughan (second from the left) and Parawai School student, Zander Allan Curnow (next to Daniel), with their parents, Grant (on the left) and Dave, during the annual Experiencing Marine Reserves Te Kura Moana Poor Knights snorkel trip on 13 May.


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