Marine devotion earns medal
Talking with Barry Searle about marine conservation is like talking to a human marine encyclopedia.
The passionate beach protector has dedicated the past 30 years of his life to marine conservation and has been awarded a Queen's Service Medal for his achievements.
His journey began when, as a curious 9-year-old scouring the beach, he stumbled upon a scientist with a microscope.
"He sowed the seed," Mr Searle says.
"Each night after school I'd go down and see what he was doing."
Sixty-five years later, the humble 74-year-old has a Department of Conservation award, a Citizens award and now a Queen's Service Medal to his name.
"My sole motivation is to make things better for the generations that follow," he says.
Mr Searle is involved in all aspects of marine conservation from shellfish, dolphins, whales and albatross to sand dunes. But one of his most outstanding achievements is his contribution to the conservation of the protected toheroa shellfish along the North Kaipara coastline.
Mr Searle and his wife Robyn cultivated toheroa in a range of coastal locations to diversify the number of places the shellfish could grow. A Ministry of Fisheries survey of Ripiro Beach showed a rise in toheroa numbers from around 130 million in 1999 to 400 million in 2012.
Mr Searle was appointed as a kaitiaki (guardian) of Ripiro Beach by Te Uri o Hau hapu of the Ngati Whatua iwi and was given an albatross feather cloak from the Erurangi Trust for his conservation efforts.
He says some experiences have brought him to tears while others have made his heart burst with pride.
"The most rewarding part is after looking after an albatross for three weeks. You see it lean into the wind and fly away."
Thankfully for Kaipara residents, Mr Searle continues to pass on his passion, knowledge and wisdom.
He has mentored many university students and more than 200 school students each year visit his garage lined with hundreds of fossils and displays - from an albatross skull to a 145 million-year-old aminyte fossil.
Mr Searle is a life member of the Dargaville Museum, was a fire station manager and helped establish the Northland Motor Caravan Association.