Seven years ago Mark Mackenzie arrived for a ten-week fixed-term contract as a teacher at Golden Bay High School. He spent those ten weeks finding every possible excuse to stay.
It seems to be a bit of a habit. Mark was one of the inaugural teachers involved in the Abel Tasman education programme and five years on he is still an enthusiastic and committed member.
So what made him want to stay in Golden Bay? “It was a nice small school with brilliant kids and two national parks close by. There was an instant appeal,” says Mark.
Fresh from a career change prompted by the Christchurch earthquakes Mark saw an incredible opportunity with the education programme. “There was an opportunity to get more students into the park on a regular basis. Most students had been to Totaranui but the park is so much more than the beaches”, he says.
Primarily a biology teacher, Mark also teaches aquaculture, chemistry and science. Over the five years, his biology classes have surveyed tree distribution at the Hadfield Clearing site annually. “We have noticed a real change. Pest control is making a tangible difference, we are seeing the understory and ground cover coming back. So far, each year’s class has taken an annual snapshot of the vegetation distribution in the survey, but Mark is keen to see a longitudinal study undertaken which will document the change over the years.
Mark is also involved in ATYA and says it is heartening to see more and more students apply to be part of the ambassador programme and be involved in hands on learning activities in the park.