Just MAD about the Hauraki Gulf

SIMON MAUDE
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014
Hauraki GUlf

HAPPY CAMPERS: Ananda Birchfield and Grace Cowley’s stay on Motutapu Island was a fun-filled learning experience capped-off with a dolphin cruise.

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Full of inspiration and brimming with smiles, two young environmentalists are now ready to make a difference.

The year 10 Takapuna Grammar students Ananda Birchfield and Grace Cowley have just completed the Department of Conservation's Make a Difference (MAD) camp on Motutapu Island.

Between classes from visiting marine experts the pair, along with dozens of other high school students, snorkeled and kayaked their way around the Island.

A highlight for Ms Cowley was spotting "heaps" of snapper, spotties and kina while out on the water.

To earn their place at the camp all the students had to already be active environmentalists, says Robbie Sutherland, DOC's manager for local environmental problems.

Sandra Jack, a DOC partnership ranger, says the kids workshopped plans to solve issues and put into action at home.

"MAD stands for make a difference, so it's about taking some action now," she says

Ananda already knows what issue he wants to focus on. Water runoff and rubbish are two of the gulf's biggest polluters, he discovered first-hand, after taking part in a coastline tour.

"I think it's important that people at our school understand what rubbish does to our harbour," he says.

The learning continued on the last day of the four day camp, with a catamaran tour of the gulf.

Whale, shark and dolphin experts, along with a team from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) joined the tour.

Dolphin expert Rochelle Constantine, a senior lecturer in biological sciences at Auckland University, says the gulf is an important "home range" for both the common and bottlenose dolphin species.

But Ms Constantine wants the students to "think holistically" about the marine habitat.

"The Hauraki Gulf is only as good as the water quality flowing into it," she says.

Meanwhile staff from the WWF were aboard the boat promoting an awareness campaign.

Love Our Gulf aims to create a platform for Aucklanders to have a say on the developing Spatial Plan.

Submissions for the non-statutory document, which seeks to create guidelines for the usage of the Hauraki Gulf, open in 2015.

Go to northshoretimes.co.nz to watch the MAD Camp boat trip.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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