Stew Robertson

I have always loved the sea, as a child growing up in the Middle East, I would spend every available moment there, windsurfing, snorkelling and fishing.

That place was polluted by oil, and in the 80’s it wasn’t uncommon to come home covered in tar, which would be promptly cleaned off by our folks using fly spray in the bath! As I got older, I realised the gravity of this situation and wanted nothing more than to protect the life giving ocean.

As a young man, moving to New Zealand, I knew that all I wanted was to work on the water, so as soon as I arrived in Motueka I got a job working for a local water taxi company. I spent every summer’s day showing visitors the wonderful Abel Tasman, and on my days off I would go back there and play.

I took this one step further and decided to pursue a career in Marine Biology, which ‘Opened my Eyes’ to so many things. So our family started up Abel Tasman EcoTours in 2013, using our knowledge to give people an in depth experience of our environment, and a real insight into the amazing Abel Tasman community.

As well as visitors, we host school kids, some of which have never been on a boat before. It is magic to give them that gift and connect them to the sea.

We also started doing conservation work, supporting the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust and Project Janszoon in protecting the national park. However I realised that there was very little care being taken of the sea. I started doing presentations to the Abel Tasman staff, from many different companies and organised dive and beach cleanups.

On our first dive cleanup we got 750 kgs of rubbish off the seafloor in the so-called ‘pristine’ Anchorage Bay. This was quite shocking to us, that people should have such a disregard for the ocean.

But more importantly it connected all of the participants and created stronger bonds between us. This is very important and one of the reasons we founded Tasman Bay Guardians.

During this time I also teamed up with Megan Wilson of Experiencing Marine Reserves and she invited me up to the Mountains to Sea Wananga in Wellington, it was amazing to meet so many people of a like mind, and inspired us to push forward.

We thank Mountains to Sea Trust for supporting us in our work and trusting us to deliver their Experiencing Marine Reserves and Whitebait Connection education programmes. We also thank all of our sponsors who have helped us make this possible.

In November 2016 I organised a presentation for the Abel Tasman Community in conjunction with Gemma McGrath to promote her work on Hector’s Dolphins, we realised at that meeting that we needed to form a group to help protect Te Tai Aorere / Tasman Bay. Luckily I’d already thought of a name for us! So that following winter, I started work on our strategy, connecting with all sorts of marine stakeholders.

We formulated a plan, got a trust board sorted and started our Tasman Bay Guardians work. We look forward to seeing how our work can positively impact the health of the bays and the wider Te tau ihu community.

Stew Robertson