Dave Gunson

  PICTURED: Dave Gunson  

Dive into the Gulf

By . Photography by Barbara Gunson. 2018 march

To mark the start of Seaweek, Saturday’s Weekend Herald (March 3) included a new Hauraki Gulf Marine Park poster, the 22nd produced through a partnership between the newspaper and the Hauraki Gulf Forum.

This one is twice the size of the previous 21 and linked, with the swipe of a smartphone, to videos about underwater life.

Tim Higham has overseen production of each of the series and has enjoyed dreaming up a theme and then recruiting artists, designers, scientists, te reo advisors, videographers and educators to create it.

Usually this has been done in part from Great Barrier Island; an off-the-grid house in a bush clearing behind Kaitoke Beach, close to favourite reefs.

This year’s poster theme is – fittingly – Dive into the Gulf, an invitation to get below the surface, to face up to some of the residents of the Gulf and the issues that surround them.

Designer Shaun Lee was invited to develop the first concepts for the project.

Shaun is hands-on with many environmental projects around his home in Glen Innes. He monitors nesting shorebirds at Point England reserve, traps rats, volunteers on Motukorea / Browns Island, and uses his boat to help restore mussel reefs with the Revive our Gulf project.

He wanted the poster to mimic the intensity we now expect from computer screens. He saw tentacles sticking to the surface of the poster and unusual depths of perspective, inviting the viewer to peer deep into an underwater cave and discover what’s there.

Artist Dave Gunson took up the challenge, using acrylics instead of his usual watercolours and a board twice the size of the canvasses used for previous series.

Dave works out of a light and airy studio in the back of his house in Birkenhead, surrounded by native bush and birds from nearby Le Roy’s Bush.

The painting took Dave about six weeks to complete, each of the 70 plus species in the picture, meticulously checked for scientific accuracy with a library of reference books and materials in his studio, and then matched to te reo names.

While Dave worked videographer Steve Hathaway was selecting, editing and shooting content to match.

Steve has created Young Ocean Explorers with his daughter Riley as presenter. What began as a school project about turtles has grown into a multimedia, interactive website for teachers keen on curriculum-relevant content for the classroom.

The site now contains almost 200 videos, quizzes and polls and has had over 30 000 visitors this week alone.
It currently includes a Sea Week contest with $20 000 worth of prizes for teachers, classrooms, students and a school. See www.youngoceanexplorers.com/contest

Steve has spent his life on and under the water, and is often be seen launching his boat from near home in Snells Beach, shooting footage for Young Ocean Explorers and clients like BBC’s Blue Planet 2.

Last year Steve also made dozens of visits to schools with the posters and found the specially created App and linked video content really engaged students.

“It creates the same sense of discovery and awe that I’ve experienced diving among whales, sharks and manta rays. We need to experience and appreciate the beauty and wonder of the Gulf if we are to value it and wrestle with tough issues and choices.”

Tim Higham says the eight poster series – which have previous illustrated the species, environments, treasures, wonders, history, icons and diversity of the Gulf – draw on the Forum’s triennial State of our Gulf assessments required under the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.

The latest was released last week and Tim believes the posters have helped create an army of students, teachers, mums and dads – who’ve put posters up in classrooms and bedrooms – with enough knowledge to demand and take responsibility for care and protection of the Gulf.