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Two graduates from NorthTec’s conservation programme were given awards at this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Samara Nicholas received the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Marine Conservation and Education, while Lyn Wade was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for Services to Conservation. Both received their awards at Government House in Wellington from the Governor General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy.
Samara completed the Diploma in Environmental Management (Level 6) in 2002, and Lyn graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management) in 2014.
Marine scientist Samara was delighted to receive her medal at a ceremony last month, along with a certificate signed by HM The Queen. She established the Experiencing Marines Reserves programme, which educates young people about marine conservation under the charity, Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust, which also teaches about freshwater ecosystems through Whitebait Connection.
Having developed an expansion model for the organisation, Experiencing Marines Reserves is now active in eight regions of New Zealand and in South Australia. The Whitebait Connection programme is led by another NorthTec graduate, Kim Jones, who Samara met during her school days and through NorthTec.
Samara remains a foundation trustee of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust and works with the Trust, seeking sustainable funding, developing strategies, supporting projects and reporting on outcomes. She has also been heavily involved in health and safety work, gaining accreditation for the organisation as an adventure activity operator able to lead snorkelling groups of children, including schools.
Samara said: “My passion for the marine environment started at high school. I took a gap year and went overseas, and travelling made me feel like I really appreciate Northland. Studying general environmental management appealed to me, and I’m pleased I went down that road because it gave me a very broad knowledge. I didn’t end up specialising as a marine biologist, I’m more of a science communicator, providing leadership and working in communities.”
Lyn’s award was given in recognition of her voluntary work on Little Barrier Island (Hauturu- o-Toi) – a haven for native flora and fauna which is inhabited only by two permanent rangers. It is a habitat for many bird species and has the widest variety of reptiles, including many tuatara, in New Zealand.
She describes rugged Little Barrier Island as “the jewel in the crown for the Department of Conservation”. It has been a nature reserve for 125 years and is now predator-free. It is co-managed by DoC and the local iwi, and Lyn says it is “the most intact ecosystem in NZ”, with very limited visitor numbers. People need a permit to land there and must go through quarantine before setting foot on the island.
She first came to NorthTec to study a few papers in environmental management for personal interest, but became hooked on the subject and ended up completing her degree. Lyn said her studies have been a huge help with her conservation efforts, and she has been able to talk to scientists on an equal footing.
She first developed a passion for Little Barrier Island as a visiting four-year-old, and her family has had strong connections to it. Her father completed the first comprehensive survey of its vegetation, geology and history, her parents spent their honeymoon on the island and her brother’s ashes were scattered there. She is now the Chair of the Little Barrier Island Supporters’ Trust and also has a volunteer role supervising day visitors and assisting with other DoC activities.