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Our history

Where we began

Ngā maunga ki te moana, Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust (MTSCT), was created in 2002 as a vehicle and guiding entity to enable a team of extremely motivated individuals to effectively communicate marine and freshwater science to NZ communities, involve them in experiencing those environments first-hand and in taking action for it, believing that the end result will be an improved environment and a strong foundational ethic of kaitiakitanga. All via the programmes; Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) and Whitebait Connection (WBC).


The founding Trustees were the late Dr Roger Grace, Stefan Seitzer, Vince Kerr and Samara Nicholas. Vince and Stefan co-founded WBC and Samara founded EMR in 2001.


This is taken from the original trust deed created in 2002 and remains the same today. A Charitable Trust is hereby established for the purpose of achieving the following outcomes.

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History of Whitebait Connection


The Whitebait Connection (WBC) programme was developed in Northland in 2000 by Stefan Seitzer and Vince Kerr. The Northland based, Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust (MTSCT) was formed in 2002 as a charitable umbrella and support organisation for both the WBC programme and also the Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme (EMR was co-founded by Vince Kerr and Samara Nicholas (nee Sutherland)) in 2002. Both programmes were born out of an urgent need for community engagement in freshwater and marine conservation and have become leading models for Education for Sustainability (EfS) in New Zealand.

Stefan Seitzer and Ira Seitzer successfully directed and undertook the national development and coordination of the WBC programme from 2001 until 2008 as founders and trustees of the trust. Ira and Stefan both resigned from their roles within WBC and the trust at the 2008 WBC wānanga at their home in Ngunguru to enter into new ventures. MTSCT trustee and consultant, Kim Jones, took on the role of WBC national coordinator in April 2008.


History of Experiencing Marine Reserves


Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) was created by Samara Nicholas in 2001, with the support of Vince Kerr. Samara and Vince were excited about getting people involved in the ocean. Samara thought back to a time when she went snorkelling at Leigh Marine Reserve with the local primary school, and was buddied up with two young kids. The look on their faces when they saw a huge snapper swimming by inspired Samara to capture that experience in an education programme, and the EMR concept came to life.


Back in 2002, EMR recognised marine reserves are vitally important for the conservation of marine biodiversity for future generations, and provideing unique educational and inspirational opportunities (they still do!)The EMR education programme is an essential step towards improving public perceptions about marine conservation by providing information and experience. The programme sets a basic building block for the establishment of marine conservation areas around New Zealand. The young people of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, and their attitudes will shape society. Therefore, marine education is vital, to protect marine resources and biodiversity for the future.

conceptEMR developed with a knowledgeable support network including Vince Kerr, the late Dr Roger Grace and Dr Bill Ballantine. Mountains to Sea Conservatioin Trust (then called Ngā Maunga ki te Moana Conservation Trust) was formed in 2002 as an umbrella organisation for the EMR and Whitebait Connection programmes.

We started with donated gear and equipment purchased from op shops. Darren Shields     was an early supporter of EMR, with our first proper equipment coming from Wildblue. Our equipment has had extreme advancments over the years. Early images (2002) used an underwater disposable camera. Our early concept of Information - Experience - Action  remain the same today.