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Ben Sheeran is a real Bays local. He loves the place. Ben attended Campbells Bay Primary, Murrays Bay Intermediate and Rangitoto College and currently lives in Rothesay Bay with his wife Sarah and daughter Patcha (5). He runs a local environmental consultancy business in Browns Bay called Recreation Solutions and is passionate about his local community and the environment. Ben is involved in many community and environmental activities including the 'Love Our Bays' project, the 'Auckland King Tides’ initiative and was recently on the management committee of the East Coast Bays Community Creche. He is also working on a restoration plan for the Browns Bay forest reserve located next to the Clyde Road bridge. Channel Mag’s Aidan Bennett put these questions to him during July.
AIDAN BENNETT: You obviously have a passion for your local community and the environment, where did that come from?
BEN SHEERAN: Exploring the bush and beaches around our neighborhood led on to family holidays camping and tramping on New Zealand’s beaches and National Parks. It’s a passion my wife Sarah and I have shared over the last 20 years and is something we are trying to pass on to our daughter Patcha. I’d sum it up as “explore, cherish and protect”.
AB: What do you love about the Shore and the Bays?
BS: We are just so lucky to grow up and live in the Bays. Like many of our friends we studied, travelled and worked in different parts of New Zealand and further afield. We have returned to raise a family here because it’s a safe and beautiful place to work and play, with the added attraction of becoming an increasingly vibrant and diverse part of Auckland.
AB: Tell us about how you got involved in the 'Love Our Bays’ project and what that is all about?
BS: In 2014, I was engaged to promote and coordinate the Love Our Bays events with support from the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board and Auckland Council’s volunteer partnerships programme. This project supported the community to replant and regenerate the streams and catchments in Rothesay, Mairangi, Waiake and Long Bays. This resulted in the planting of over 2500 trees by over 300 locals. The enduring legacy of the Love Our Bays project has been local communities themselves organizing and running community planting and weeding days each year, including an annual event at Rothesay Bay coordinated by the Rothesay Bay Residents and Ratepayers and with support from Forest & Bird North Shore branch.
I’m now involved in the Rothesay Bay events in my capacity as a local resident, and it’s a great way for different groups in the community to come together. Our events at Rothesay Bay bring together young families, recent immigrants and green thumbed baby boomers who might not otherwise know each other.
AB: So what exactly does Recreation Solutions do and when did this business start?
BS: Recreation Solutions started 10 years ago in 2007 serving clients in local and central government, NGO’s and community groups. I am fortunate that the business has been a vehicle for me to work and collaborate on some amazing projects with great people. We specialize in parks & open space policy and planning, promoting and coordinating events for local communities, programme evaluation, and communications & engagement to support environmental behavior change programmes.
Highlights for me include working on the concept design for The Hillary Trail which is a multiday walk on the Waitakere Ranges, piloting a workplace cycling programme for Auckland Transport, developing a communications and engagement programme for WWF-NZ to support the Seachange Marine Spatial Plan for the Hauraki Gulf, and working with surfers to protect the Maui’s dolphin.
AB: You founded the 'Auckland King Tides’ initiative. Tell us about that?
BS: The Auckland King Tides Initiative (www.auckland.kingtides.org.nz) is a citizen science project that encourages the public to capture images of king tides on Aucklands beaches as a means to understand the potential future impacts of sea level rise on our coast. What we are doing is providing photo content to agencies to ensure we make robust decisions now and in the future about how we plan and manage our coastline in a way that maximizes public input.
AB: What is aim of the restoration plan for the Browns Bay forest reserve?
BS: The aim is to enhance the existing Browns Bay forest reserve located next to the Clyde Road bridge. This will include pest weed eradication and replanting where required. Because this section of land provides a green link back through to the Taiaotea catchment, this plan will seek to complement the greenlighting project underway in the Taiaotea catchment and help implement some of the goals of the Draft Browns Bay Local Board Plan. My dream would be to create a cycle path starting and finishing at Browns Bay beach, which circumnavigates Freyberg Park and Sherwood Reserve via the Taiaotea Stream.
AB: Do you have any other passions or pastimes?
BS: I enjoyed playing sports growing up, but my enduring passions have been around getting into the outdoors and having adventures with my family and friends. There’s no coach or referee, so you just have to work it out for yourself – manage risk, find your place in the pecking order, and discover your limits. Going out surfing stormies on North Shore beaches is something I still love doing, because you still feel like a teenager. Hope to see more kids off their screens and out surfing in the lineup!
AB: From your perspective are there any things we could be doing better as a community?
BS: As you get older, you start to notice the people that are getting things done on a daily basis to make our community a better place. I think the community would be a better place if we all committed to doing one thing a year that benefits everyone and not just ourselves – plant a tree, help a neighbor, start a new project. And lets all pick up the rubbish when we see it and teach our kids to be tidy kiwis.
AB: You obviously love being a father to Patcha? How will you celebrate Fathers Day as a family? Will you be spoilt?
BS: Being a dad rules. I’m so lucky. I would celebrate with our usual Saturday morning ritual, which is for Patcha and I to paddleboard from home to Mairangi Bay to meet up with Sarah after yoga for a coffee and a look in the op shop.
I also love going cycling with Patcha and Sarah, so my pick would be for us to do one of our favourite rides like the Orewa Cycle Path or the Devonport Takapuna green route. With at least 2 coffee stops on the way.
If you would like to be involved with any of these initiatives, contact Ben on 021462777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Channel Magazine: Issue 79 August 2017