The sand bites at Darren Clarke as he collects debris from Farewell Spit.
As the Marine Farming Association’s Environmental Mentor for Golden Bay, this is part of his job.
But for Darren, this is his idea of a good time.
“This is not a job, this is fun,” he says with a broad smile.
“I am passionate about aquaculture and the environment and this job allows me to work with DOC and the community to keep the beaches of Golden Bay clean.”
His passion, commitment and leadership were recognised this week when Darren was presented with the MFA’s Environment Award at the annual aquaculture awards.
The award also celebrated a mammoth effort from Darren, who spent three days along with his father, battling sand storms to collect stray mussel-floats on Farewell Spit.
“This recognition is deserving of the commitment shown to keeping our environment clear of all debris – not only marine farming debris – and for the relentless work in ensuring all locals know who to talk to when they see any marine farming debris on beaches in the area,” MFA president Rob Pooley said.
Darren said while he was humbled by the recognition, the real reward was getting to do what he loved every day.
“This whole industry, from day one is just built from good buggers,” he said.
“We are trying as an industry to genuinely keep our act clean. We’re not just talking the talk, we’re walking the walk.
“We don’t want people to say ‘they’re dirty marine farmers we don’t want them here’.
“We want them to say, ‘they’re doing good, they’re looking after the local water ways and beaches, let’s work with them’.
“Basically it’s like renting a house. We are tenants, and we want everyone to see we are looking after the environment.”
Mr Pooley said the award was a highlight each year as it demonstrated the industry’s commitment to strong environmental stewardship.
“Mussel farming is an extremely sustainable activity but we have always been very mindful that we operate in public water space and work hard to be good tenants,” Mr Pooley said.
“We are proud to farm in local waters, we do not take our presence there for granted and we are committed to operating in balance with local communities.
“Darren is a wonderful ambassador for our programme and we are proud to have him on board and he is a very deserving recipient of this prestigious award.”
Darren was joined on the honours list by Golden Bay marine farmer Kris Solly, of Artista-Cat Mussels who was named the Outstanding Marine Farmer of the Year for his contributions towards public awareness and growth of marine farming in Golden and Tasman Bays.
“I love this industry – with a huge passion,” Kris said.
“It’s ever changing, every season, every spat fall is different. The markets change all the time. It’s a constant challenge.
“To win an award like this is overwhelming,” Kris said.
“To get the recognition from the industry goes a long way. It means a lot. That people respect what you do and that we as a company, are doing the right thing.”
Also recognised on the evening were:
MFA Merit Award: Mark Gillard, New Zealand King Salmon, for making a significant and beneficial difference to the marine farming industry over a sustained period of time.
New Entrant Award: Zane Charman, Sanford, for quickly establishing a respected role in the industry
Research and Development Award: Marine and General, for inventing, designing, perfecting and manufacturing much of the industry’s on-water machinery.