Snorkelling Students Marvel at Marine Biodiversity

1 February 2010

Primary school students around Wellington are learning firsthand the importance of marine biodiversity thanks to Experiencing Marine Reserves - a programme run by the Wellington Marine Education Centre with funding from Wellington City Council and the Department of Conservation.

Now in its fourth year in Wellington, the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme gives children the chance to snorkel in their local marine environment before comparing it to the marine biodiversity found around Kapiti Island - a marine reserve since 1992.

Claire Pascoe - one of EMR's regional coordinators in Wellington - says the object of the programme is to help students experience snorkelling while gaining an understanding of the important difference marine reserves make to the preservation of our aquatic ecosystems.

"We always get a really enthusiastic response from our students and the parents and teachers that volunteer to help out - we often have to virtually drag them out of the water! After the programme the students undertake a project to share what they've learnt with the wider community."

At the moment EMR use Island Bay as the point of comparison with Kapiti Island. However Claire says they'll have to start looking for a new snorkelling spot soon - because since the creation of the Taputeranga Marine Reserve in 2008, there has been a noticeable improvement in the biodiversity off Wellington's South Coast.

"On my last snorkel in Island Bay I noticed a marked difference in the biodiversity compared to the year before. I was seeing blue moki, large banded wrasse, marble fish and masses of triplefins and spotties. It's fantastic to see - and it means that one day soon we'll be able to use our own backyard to demonstrate the overwhelming difference marine reserves make."

Claire says one of the reasons EMR is able to offer this programme to kids in the Capital is because of the regular funding they receive from Wellington City Council.

"In the most recent round of the Council's General Grants we received $5000 from the Environment Pool - that makes a big difference for us, so we're really thankful for the support. I should also mention that we get heaps of support from Oceanic - a diving products company."

EMR was one of many groups to benefit from the most recent round of the Council's General Grants. In total, just under $260,000 was allocated across 29 projects.

The next round of General Grants is closing on Wednesday 31 March and the Council is now seeking funding applications from not-for-profit community groups with projects that will benefit Wellington socially, culturally, economically or environmentally.

For more information about the Council's grants programme, including a grants calendar, application forms, seminar dates, past allocations and guides to completing your application, phone (04) 499 4444 or visit the Grants section of the website.