It is with a heavy heart that I write this tribute to my hero – Bill Ballantine

I first met Bill in 1998, when he spoke to my year 13 geography class at Kamo High School, when we were working on the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve proposal. It was during this time that my interest in marine conservation blossomed. In 2002, I attended Bills two week marine reserve masters course at the Leigh marine laboratory, which became the foundation of my career.

The following year we spent a week together touring all over Northland, Bill talked to ten schools and five community groups in five days. Bill taught me so much about presenting, I often refer to his sayings such as If your learning to be a mechanic you don’t learn from a broken down car, you want a fully functional one, as with marine science, we need to learn from a fully functioning ecosystem (a marine reserve).

Bill has been a constant source of inspiration and support for the development of the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme. Bill would always volunteer his time to share his knowledge with school students and community groups on the EMR programme without question.

On a more personal note, Bill had such a profound influence on me and I was privileged to have him attend my wedding day.

When I last caught up with Bill, he was chuffed to receive an EMR tee shirt for his grandchild and was pleased to learn of the EMR programmes adoption in South Australia.

Now more than ever I plan to promote Bill’s lifetime of work and dedication to achieving more marine reserves for New Zealand!

Letter of support for the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme by Dr W.J. Ballantine (2007)

I have been aware of the programme “Experiencing Marine Reserves” since its inception and have followed its progress with great interest. I have been involved in promoting marine reserves for a long time. In recent years I ran a Masters level course on the subject at the Leigh Laboratory for the University of Auckland, which was attended by the Experiencing Marine Reserves director Samara Nicholas.

I am particularly impressed by the methods which Samara uses to interest and inform schoolchildren about marine reserves. I first observed these when she organised a school group during the MSc course. Since then I have toured around some Northland schools with her. Her enthusiasm is highly infectious. She clearly speaks to the children in ways they find comfortable, but having gained their attention, she concentrates on the important scientific and social opportunities provided by marine reserves. I have spoken to several of the school groups she brings to Leigh, where they explore shores and snorkel in the reserve. I have seen some of the follow-up essays, posters, drawings, poems and even a video made by these classes.

I am well aware of the various social sensitivities of marine reserve issues and how these need to be handled carefully, especially in schools. But I am also aware of the educational value of marine life in general and its conservation in particular. I wrote a book on the subject in 1991, made a video in 1993, co-authored an education kit in 1995 and have given several hundred talks and presentations in schools all over New Zealand. Now that I am getting older and have much less energy, it gives me great pleasure to see this work being, not just carried on, but developed and extended.

It is also important for New Zealand. Marine reserves are now supported in principle by virtually all parties and 34 reserves have been established. It is appropriate to extend the educational benefits to the younger children. The programme organised by Samara Nicholas and the Trust is, in my considered opinion, a very good one and Northland is a particularly suitable region to continue such work.

By focusing on marine life, which is very different from life on land, the programme greatly extends the children’s experience. By involving parents and other adult volunteers (to accompany the snorkelling) it ensures that the local community’s knowledge and sensitivities are included in the teaching. By making actual visits to local sites and a marine reserve, physical exercise and real contact with marine life is built in to the programme. (It is very difficult to arrange effective contact with marine life in the classroom!). By comparing marine reserves with other areas it ensures that the children (and parents) have the opportunity to form their own opinions based on actual experience.

In February 2006 the government issued a policy document on Marine Protected Areas under the Biodiversity Strategy and this was followed up in June 2007 by a marine habitat classification and implementation plan. These reports request interest and participation by the general public. It is now desirable to include such matters in formal school programmes and to make arrangements to inform adults about the values of marine reserves. The Experiencing Marine Reserves programme is well designed to do these things and its expansion from Northland to Auckland, Wellington and other regions means that it could become an important part of New Zealand’s marine biodiversity and conservation policy.

Yours faithfully, Dr W. J. Ballantine