By CHARLOTTE WINSTONE

Setting up more centres to teach intermediate schoolchildren about the sea and conservation is a fitting tribute to Sir Peter Blake, says a marine education organisation.

The Sir Peter Blake Marine Education Recreation Centre, at Long Bay, is looking for a new site where more children can participate in activities such as sailing, canoeing, snorkelling and other outdoor pursuits.

Centre patron David Gray believes establishing more sites in New Zealand is an appropriate tribute to the centre's namesake.

"Sir Peter Blake liked it. He gave it his patronage. The beauty of this is that it is something that will grow over the years.

The organisation was set up in 1990 because of the large numbers of Auckland intermediate schoolchildren who had never been to the beach.

It aimed to get such children involved in outdoor activities, particularly those that encouraged a better understanding of the marine environment.

In 1997, Sir Peter Blake agreed to be patron, and in December 2002 Lady Pippa Blake attended a ceremony where the centre acquired Sir Peter Blake's name.

But now the centre cannot keep up with the numbers of children who wish to attend.

Director Toni-Maree Carnie said it was overwhelmed, with many on waiting lists. The centre has a temporary second site at Waiwera but needed another permanent site to cope with the demand.

The centre has approached Auckland Regional Council about sites close to the shore suitable for launching small boats. It has made a submission to the Department of Conservation to use land at Kawau Island.

The centre caters for school, sports, church, overseas and corporate groups. It runs daily and weekly programmes and provides overnight accommodation. The programme costs $24 a day and $32 overnight. It also has a fund for children whose parents cannot afford the fee.

Herald Feature: Peter Blake, 1948-2001