Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust was recently recognized for environmental action in the community. The Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) project won the Te Tohu Matua-Supreme Award at Northland Regional Council’s annual ‘Whakamānawa ā Taiao – Environmental Awards.

Out of 47 entries, EMD was recognised for its long and outstanding contribution to Northland’s environment over the last 20 years. The awards celebrate kaitiakitanga in action and highlight the commitment and remarkable contributions so many people from all walks of life are making to help Northland’s environment thrive.

Founder of Mountains to Sea, Samara Nicolas says, “It was really awesome to recognised in our own backyard. Our mahi has extended well beyond Northland, but it’s where our heart is! It was also really great or the importance of marine education to be acknowledged in this way.”

We have been supporting Mountains to Sea through the EMR programme and Whitebait Connection programme since 2007, giving donations of $560,000 in this time.

Founded in 2001, Experiencing Marine Reserves is a programme that provides school students and community members with an opportunity to connect with their local marine habitat through snorkelling. The Northland programme stretches from Tapotupotu in the Far North to Goat Island in the south.

“Our in-water experiences have become life long memories. We often get letters from kids quoting they had the best day of their life and that they want to become a marine biologist! We’ve recently connected with one of our first students from 20 years ago who recalls his time on EMR as the best part of his primary school days and he still tells the stories to his kids.”

Samara has a passion for marine conservation. More than 60,000 people have been snorkelling through the programme so far. Students form an emotional connection with marine habitats and gives them an understanding what healthy marine ecosystems look like.

“Hands on experiences in the environment are essential. These are the building blocks for people to create emotional connections with their environment. Our in water experiences in marine reserves help to inspire action and positive attitudes towards protecting our marine environment.

“Over the years hundreds of action projects have resulted in positive changes for the marine environment, including marine monitoring, dune restoration, riparian restoration, public awareness raising for marine conservation and marine pest detection.”, says Samara.

TTF has donated $300k to EMR since 2015