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World First Human Chain at the World First Student Driven Marine Reserve

chain thumbThe world’s first human chain around the world’s first student-driven marine reserve was a success. 1005 Northland students, parents’ teachers and community members formed the chain around the landward boundary of the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve at Reotahi (Motukaroro) on 16 September 2009.

by rachel agnew2The Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) programme, supported by the Department of Conservation, organised this event to celebrate conservation week and the reserves upcoming third anniversary.

The event saw months of planning come to fruition. We got through the day with no incidents, says EMR’s Nicki Wakefield, co-organiser and operations manager for event.

Boats marked the seaward boundary including Ingrid Vissors Orca Research and Dive Tutukaka’s ‘Perfect Day’. Kerikeri Primary was one of 15 schools that made up the chain and travelled the longest distance. 40 Ngunguru School students had the most unique form of transport, with the journey from Tutukaka to Whangarei Harbour on board Perfect Day. Hundreds of students attended from Kamo High School, the original applicant of this reserve.

We achieved our goal today, all students, parents and community members will go home more aware of the reserve and its boundaries and a sense of pride and ownership of their marine reserve, says co-organiser and event controller Samara Nicholas.

“We had some incredible visitors to show their support for our event today, including a pod of dolphins and a seal, the Whangarei Harbour is truly a special place and worthy of this protection for future generations”

The presence of the helicopter created a lot of hype, it did take a few tries to coordinate over 1000 people to do a perfect Mexican wave, says Samara.


Schools that took part in the chain are encouraged to come back to and snorkel at the site with the EMR marine education programme. “The marine reserve is a fantastic education tool and the support for today’s event shows how interesting and valuable our marine reserves are for not just Northlanders, but all kiwis”

by rachel agnew3EMR also runs guided community snorkel days during the summer, co-organisers Samara, Kim and Nicki are past students of Kamo High School, which was responsible for the Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve proposal.

“This marine reserve conserves unique marine biodiversity for the enjoyment of future generations. I am proud to have been involved in pulling off an event of this scale, it was a logistical nightmare, but our team from EMR and the support from DOC, Transfield and many other organisations made it possible” Mrs Nicholas says

“EMR works with schools and communities throughout New Zealand offering first-hand marine experiences and encouraging action for the marine environment. It's great to be a part of such a massive event that will draw attention to the boundaries of this marine reserve through a colossal amount of community teamwork and spirit” says Northland EMR coordinator and human chain co-chief organiser, Kim Boyle.

Media Contact and general enquires: Samara Nicholas on 09 433 8205 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 0210362019

Supporting organisations: Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust/Experiencing Marine Reserves– event organisation and management

  • Department of Conservation – responsible for managing the marine reserve where event taking place, financial and support staff for event
  • Transfield – traffic management planning and coordination, sponsored TMP
  • Radio Rentals – discount radio equipment
  • Whangarei District Council – land reserve where event taking place
  • NZ Police – Observers
  • Webb Ross – Legal advice
  • Dive Tutukaka – Media base
  • Manaia Club – Parking facilities
  • NRC – Harbour master official
  • Association of Maori Wardens – Event traffic management
  • St John – First Aid service
  • Radio Rentals – discount hire radios
  • Hirepool – portaloos

Participating Schools (human chain links):
Kamo Primary, Whau Valley School, Te Horo School, Kerikeri Primary, Parua Bay School, Mangakahia Area School, Kamo High School, Northland Health Camp, Whananaki School, Kamo Intermediate, Manaia View, Ngunguru School, Otangarei and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Rawhitiroa.

Participating organisations (human chain link supervisors):
Greenpeace, NIWA, Northtec, Department of Conservation, Northland Regional Council, Whangarei District Council, Dive Inn

Participating boats (seaward boundary links):
Noel Cronin Fishing Charters, Northland Dive, Dive Tutukaka’s Perfect Day, Oakura Bay fish and dive, Ocean Diversity, Orca Rescue, Marine North, Department of Conservation

The Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve was first proposed by students of Kamo High School in 1990. The Motukaroro and Waikaraka sites attained marine reserve status in October 2006 and are believed to be a world first through the school’s ongoing commitment. The Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve protects 253.7 hectares or 2.54% of the Whangarei Harbour, and is made up of two sites including a unique rocky reef site at Motukaroro (Aubrey/Passage Island) near Reotahi and an intertidal mudflat/mangrove environment at Waikaraka.
Department of Conservation formally opened the reserve on 18 October 2006, DOC are responsible for management of the reserve.