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Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust

MTS LogoThe Northland-based Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust (CC23406) was established in 2002, as a charitable umbrella and support organisation for the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) marine education and Whitebait Connection (WBC) freshwater education programmes. These are both leading models in education for sustainability in Aotearoa/New Zealand.


Download the Trust Flyer here


mtsct diagram


The Trusts vision

In the vision of our Trust, the biodiversity of our ocean, coastal areas, our streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands is respected as a taonga (treasure). We view these systems as a whole with no boundaries. Restoration of any part of the system supports the whole. Ours is a special generation, we have the opportunity and obligation to reverse past trends of exploitation of the natural world. We feel there is an urgent need to halt continued degradation of the natural systems and biodiversity upon which all life ultimately depends. In the social and cultural realms there are positive paths forward which we will work to develop and support.

The Northland-based Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust was established in 2002, as a charitable umbrella and support organisation for the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) marine education and Whitebait Connection (WBC) freshwater education programmes. These are both leading models in education for sustainability in New Zealand and now available nationally.

In addition to EMR and WBC we have developed a range of supporting projects, resources and services such as community guided snorkel days, community events for Seaweek & Conservation week, DVD’s, the MarineNZ website, and the Drains to Harbour and Mangrove Discovery programmes. A diagram of the structure of the trust and its programmes can be viewed by clicking on the link at the top of this page.

The Trust recognises the Treaty of Waitangi and will strive to honor the principles of this founding document. The partnership between the cultures challenges us to learn from and respect the knowledge and wisdom underlying the tikanga (tradition) of our indigenous culture. Empowerment and restoration of the kaitiakitanga (guardianship) is a critical challenge and an even greater opportunity in today's society.

The Trust sees education as a vital part of society and central to all environmental restoration. We will support the community in every way possible to develop environmental education that is based on experiential learning and engagement in real environmental challenges and opportunities facing communities.

The Trust works from a vision that sees communities ultimately holding the solutions and resources to tackle the environmental problems that we face today. The Trust will strive to work in ways that builds community involvement, fosters equity, and works toward a shared vision of ecological sustainability as the basis of all community.

The continued development of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust brings together an extensive array of professional skills and diverse capabilities. Within our group of six trustees there is a balance of youth and experience, scientific, social scientific, leadership and educational accomplishment. Our trustees include marine biologist and photographer Dr Roger Grace, biologist and marine conservation campaigner Vince Kerr, businessman and commercial diver Hilton Leith, environmental social entrepreneur Samara Nicholas, environmental educator Kim Jones and ecologist Dr. Olly Ball.

We embrace a philosophy of experiential learning and fostering community engagement in education for sustainability and action. Our work is unique in its simple yet powerful principles and robust scientific foundation. Through this we deliver solutions to some of New Zealand’s most pressing environmental challenges.

An inspiring blend of community based social marketing, education for sustainability and community engagement principles, combined with demonstrated passion and leadership from our trustees, consultants and co-ordinators provides us with a special ability to motivate change.


Vince Kerr
vince kerrVince is our curent Chairperson.  He is a biologist with a background in environmental education, forestry, horticulture and conservation management and currently works for his own firm Kerr & Associates, based in Northland. Vince is a strong advocate for marine conservation and played a key support role in the Kamo High School Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve campaign. Vince is the driving force behind our Trust project and website He is currently a non-consulting trustee. Vince has responsibility for advising on any issues and supporting consulting trustees.

Dr Roger Grace
roger graceRoger is a well known marine biologist and professional photographer. Roger is an active campaigner for marine conservation in New Zealand and internationally. He has played a role in many of New Zealand’s marine reserve campaigns and is a frequent contributor of articles on marine conservation to popular magazines. Roger was involved as a supporter and biologist for the Great Barrier, Tiritiri and Mimiwhangata marine conservation projects. Roger received the Queen’s Service Medal for public service in 2005. Roger supports trust programmes as a non-consulting trustee, but also with photographs, expert biological advice, peer review and decision making with regard to grants and programme direction.

Samara Nicholas (nee Sutherland)
Sasamara nicholasmara is an original trustee and is the Programme Director. She was recognised in 2005 in the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from AUT and is a graduate of Northland Polytechnic’s Diploma of Environmental Management. Samara established the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme in 2001, and the EMR community guided snorkel days in 2004. She is also a graduate of Kamo High School where she was Head Girl and played a key role in the school’s marine reserve proposal and establishment. Samara is a PADI Dive Master and a registered assessor for unit standards in snorkelling. Samara is a consulting trustee and has responsibility for the overall management and direction of all programmes. She is also the national EMR coordinator.

Kim Jones (nee Boyle)
kim jonesKim is the national coordinator for the Whitebait Connection Programme. She achieved her Open Water SCUBA Diving certification and surf lifesaving bronze star and medallion whilst at high school. She is a graduate of the Diploma in Environmental Management and Conservation at Northland Polytechnic. Kim received the Golden Bay Cement student scholarship in 2005, which has helped fund her education and provided her with experience working within the environmental management industry. She has a National Certificate in Business Administration and Computing. Kim was a selected member of the youth delegates at the 2006 Digital Earth symposium on sustainability and is also a committee member of the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education, Northland Branch. Kim is a consulting trustee.

Hilton Leith
hilton pic 1bHilton sees life as an opportunity to continually learn and change. Hilton has been fortunate to spend half of his working life free diving for rock lobster, paua and sea urchin. The balance was spent in real estate. He saw both of these as wonderful opportunities to learn about himself and his connection with his surroundings. Hilton is a PADI Rescue Diver and a knowledgeable businessman. He believes our future is linked to how we treat our environment today. Hilton has added value to the trust in the areas of financial processes and strategic vision as a non-consulting trustee.

Dr. Olivier (Olly) BallLunch at Glink27s Gully while chasing Notoreas
I am a senior tutor at NorthTec Whangarei, and teach subjects ranging from ecology to conservation to the dreaded statistics. My interest in ecology and conservation was sparked when, as a child growing up in London, I found out that I was never going to be able to see such wonderful creatures as moa, huia and dodo, as every last one had been exterminated by humans, directly or indirectly. After leaving school in England, I followed the zoological pathway, completing a BSc Hons at the University of Canterbury (NZ), majoring in ecology and invertebrate physiology. For my PhD at Waikato University, my studies focused on biological control of pastoral insect pests using endophytic fungi of grasses. After post-doctoral studies on endophytic fungi at the University of Tennessee, and several years as a research scientist with AgResearch at Ruakura and Grasslands, I was able to rekindle my passion for plants, animals and their conservation when I took up my current post at NorthTec. Since my arrival at NorthTec, I have been lucky enough to participate in several research projects, including studies on freshwater invertebrate communities of northern Northland dune lakes. What a stunning environment we have, and how lucky we are. That is why I am so happy to support the amazing work of the Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust.


Trust Advisors

Eden Hakaraia - Education Advisor
I have been a teacher for the past 15 years and my passions are Science and Environmental Education hence my new job with Enviroschools, Northland Regional Council. I have been an Enviroschool facilitator for the past 12 months. I am working with 40 schools in Northland promoting Education for Sustainability. In 2012, I had a Science Fellowship with Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust. I was able to work alongside Experiencing Marine Reserves and Whitebait Connection. In 2015, I was awarded a Science Alumni award for the work I had been doing with science with a huge emphasis on Environmental Education. 

Manuel Springford - Te waha Maori Advisor

Manuel Springford decided to speak Te Reo on Mondays - wherever he goes, whoever he meets, he speaks Māori. It's his way to keep his native tongue alive.  Manuel is committed to Te Reo and surrounds himself with the language in his day-to-day activities, but it was a different story as a youngster - he didn't even know his grandfather could speak Māori. His initial reason to learn the language was to converse with him, so started his reo journey in 2009.  He started Māori Mondays in May 2009 after hearing about Mahuru Māori, another Māori language initiative that encourages people to speak Maori in September. Mr Springford thought he'd start early and commit to one day a week. His commitment to the language has inspired many in his community to give Te Reo a go. His local bakery, the Baker's Crust, has included Te Reo in their business - such as renaming their monthly speciality pies in Māori.  Mr Springford normalises Te Reo in his workplace, at home, everywhere. While Māori Mondays started out as a way for him to korero Māori more often, the ripple effect has been far wider.  

Whakamana te maunga Whakamana te wai He mauri o ngᾱ tangata Ngᾱ mea katoa he pai
If we look after the water from the mountains to sea, it will look after us. It is our life force.


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