Snorkelling class launches Johnny's quest for a rubbish-free sea
Johnny MacLennan is hooked on the underwater world.
But the 12–year–old Lower Moutere School student said he was shocked when he saw the amount of litter in the local marine environment and now wants boaties to stop throwing rubbish overboard.
Johnny became enthralled by undersea life after his first snorkelling trip off Tonga Island as part of a national Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme.
EMR offered schools across nine regions nationwide hands–on learning about marine reserves and the chance for students to win a place in its annual guided snorkelling experience at the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, on the northern tip of the Hauraki Gulf.
Johnny said he first learnt how to snorkel when EMR coordinator Jude Heath took classes in the school's pool earlier this year.
"A few weeks later we went out to Kaiteriteri, but it was not that clear and there was rubbish in the water.
"Then we went to Tonga Island Marine Reserve and it was a whole different world."
He helped teach students in the school's younger classes to snorkel and headed underwater at every chance he could get after school.
"Jude Heath came back and said we all had to give back to EMR. We all had to make an action plan to clean–up or protect the marine environment around here."
Johnny's solution was simple. He would ask boaties to take their rubbish back to shore rather than dumping it in the sea.
He planned to erect signs at the Kaiteriteri and Motueka boat ramps asking boaties bring their rubbish home and had already secured permission to put up a sign at the Kaiteriteri ramp.
He and classmate Ben Cave both entered EMR's Poor Knights competition. Johnny won the chance to represent the region in the Poor Knights Marine Reserve trip next Friday and Saturday. Ben is a finalist in the art competition.
Johnny said he was looking forward to seeing the difference between Tonga Island and the Poor Knights.
"There should be way more marine life there."
And he was keen to pursue diving as a possible career.
"It's really cool EMR does this for kids before they get into the real world."