Students find their sea legs on land

Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Yvette Batten/Fairfax NZ

New centre: Inside the new Marine Information Centre are, from left: Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society committee member Elise Smith, Experiencing Marine Reserve programme national co-ordinator Samara Nicholas and Department of Conservation community relations ranger Mike Tapp.

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Taranaki's Experiencing Marine Reserves programme model is such a success it could be used as a national template.

Last week national programme co-ordinator Samara Nicholas was in town to investigate why it works so well here.

Experiencing Marine Reserves is about encouraging children to be interested in and advocate for the ocean.

It also includes practical exercises like learning to snorkel and visiting areas of ocean that are not reserves compared with those that are.

Although it is run in seven regions around New Zealand, Taranaki is the most recent area to adopt it.

"It seems to be working really well," Ms Nicholas said.

Experiencing Marine Reserves programme is overseen nationally by the Mountain To Sea Conservation Trust.

Our version is special because of the relationship between the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society and Conservation Department locally.

"The key difference is that the teachers are the co-ordinators."

In other regions there is a trained co-ordinator who visits the schools involved.

"It will help it to be more sustainable long term," she said about Taranaki's model.

"Funding can help support resources and also travel to experience different marine reserves around the country rather than supporting the wages of someone."

When Taranaki's programme started the goal was for the children to experience New Zealand's first marine reserve, between Cape Rodney and Okakari Point, north of Auckland.

"That meant that any funding support that we could provide could go towards those travel costs."

Three North Taranaki schools are involved in the programme, St Pius, Manukorihi and Ahititi.

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