It was an absolute pleasure to award the Wyland award to the South Taranaki Underwater Club for their Project Reef Life programme at the New Zealand Underwater Association’s AGM in Christchurch on Saturday 29th June. The Club is the 17th recipient of the Award which was first presented in 2003.
This award is primarily aimed at recognising those individuals or a group of individuals that have unselfishly contributed huge amounts of their personal time for the benefit of all divers and the marine environment for no real personal financial gain or glory. They are the unsung heroes, doing what they feel will make a difference for the better, for this planet we call home.
The Project was born out of a desire to learn more about South Taranaki offshore reefs, which have had extremely limited scientific study to date, and to share the knowledge gained, and observational photographs and videos with the local and wider community. A proposed iron sand mining operation offshore of Patea has highlighted the importance of sharing valuable local diver knowledge of the rich life to be found on the local reefs.
With the assistance of Curious Minds and funding from the Ministry of Business and Innovation (MBIE) the group project has have been able to build an underwater photographic recording system that is anchored close to the reef to record the passing marine life over many days. Further funding from the TSB Community Trust has enabled a Mark II version to be built, with a number of improvements on the earlier model. Creative Community South Taranaki funding has enabled a mural of the reef to be painted in Patea, and work has begun on a further art installation, involving high school students and local engineers.
The local community and schools are absolutely loving the Project. Two local high schools are involved with the scientific studies and numerous school and community talks occur, and continue to be booked in. The local buy-in is extraordinary!