DON'T you just love it when a plan comes together? Yes -- almost as much as when people come together over a plan and work it through until it's successful.
People who don't know about the South Taranaki Reef Life Project are missing out on a good news story.
The South Taranaki Underwater Club applied for Curious Minds funding from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment which is administered locally by Venture Taranaki.
The project is to examine "What makes the subtidal reefs of South Taranaki unique?", and project partners include Patea Area School, Hawera High School and Te Kaahui o Rauru and Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust.
The funding has helped engage two marine scientists, Thomas McElroy from the Taranaki Regional Council and Joshua Richardson, both with their Masters degrees in marine science.
A prototype camera has been placed on the seabed and 24/7 intermittent footage obtained for scientific review.
Student scientists from the high schools have gone out on fishing surveys to identify what species live at the reef, the density (catch per unit effort) as well as the weight and length of the fish.
Areas of study include why different-sized fish are caught at different times of the year, and the size and nature of fish stocks in the area.
This information has informed locals making submissions on activities in the area, and knowledge accumulated through diving and surveying the project reef has led to the Underwater Club engaging with the Taranaki Regional Council in reviewing the coastal policy document and in submissions made to the application by Trans-Tasman Resources to mine the seabed of the South Taranaki coast, currently before the Environmental Protection Authority.
In effect, the project has educated many of us who were previously quite ignorant as to what life exists on the reefs just off our coast, including the project reef, which lies 11km offshore.
It has also shown us the uniqueness and fragility of that biodiversity because we can't all just pull on a wetsuit and go and look for ourselves.
It has also proven that while not all curious minds belong to the young -- the older I get, the "curiouser" I seem to become -- it has allowed young rural-based kids to know that they actually have some clout.
The study is collaborating and sharing information with Niwa, Te Papa and Auckland University on its findings and adding to the pot of knowledge about New Zealand's coastline and seabed.
Now there is the big news that the Reef Life Project is a finalist in the Protecting our Coasts and Oceans category of the Ministry for the Environment Green Ribbon Awards.
A flash formal awards dinner is to be held in Parliament on June 8.
I am also wangling a space for the group to present before the Science and Education select committee, and I am looking forward to what I am sure will be their very proud moment.
It has been said that "all politics is local", and this project shows that the germ of an idea from the underwater club in South Taranaki can get legs, bring communities together in a joint enterprise and educate a nation.
These legs now carry that full-blown, big, hairy idea all the way to Parliament and possibly influence policy, innovation, and even maybe judicial decision-making.
A big thanks to all involved who have seen the value of adding weight to each other's wheels. It has shown older people that they are never too old to learn and younger folk that they are never too small to have a big influence.