Dad and daughter open kids' eyes to underwater wonders

  • 10/08/2015
Facebook: Young Ocean Explorers
Facebook: Young Ocean Explorers

AMP Scholarship recipient Steve Hathaway and his teenage daughter Riley are inspiring New Zealand kids to look beyond the surface when they go to the beach.

Around 93 percent of New Zealand is ocean and 70 percent of our native animals live in that zone, but underwater inhabitants don't get nearly the same publicity as land-based animals.

"As a nation New Zealand celebrates native animals. We love kauri, kiwi and kakapo. But we don't relate as easily to native animals in the ocean. Riley and I are trying to engage the hearts and minds of the newest generation, so they'll see the underwater world is just as significant as the land", says Steve.

Assisted by the $10,000 AMP Scholarship he received last year, Steve has been busy filming the second series of Young Ocean Explorers with Riley. As well as focusing on New Zealand's underwater inhabitants, they've also filmed in the Cook Islands and Australia, which are popular holiday destinations for Kiwi families. Each episode focuses on a specific animal.

"We've looked at orca, dolphins, sharks, turtles, triple fins and many more. Riley is the main presenter and she's going on adventures in my world as a young ocean explorer. Kids relate easily to Riley – she's turned out to be an amazing presenter."

A man more comfortable underwater than he is on land, in 2008 Steve dedicated his life fulltime to underwater storytelling. He left his construction business to commence a new career as an underwater cameraman, and his work has appeared on BBC, Discovery TV and National Geographic. The Young Ocean Explorers programmes are about engaging children – and their parents – emotionally, so they'll fall in love with the ocean and want to look after it.

A natural extension to the television series is a book and DVD, which are being distributed to every school in New Zealand during August. Steve and Riley will head off on a three-week national book tour at the beginning of September.

"We don't want the book to disappear into schools' libraries, so we've made sure it's an effective teaching tool that fits into the new 'inquiry learning' style of teaching. We've designed the book so that teachers can choose a topic, then let kids follow it down different trails. The videos work with the book and are so engaging, kids don't even realise they're learning."

In September Steve's off on a scientific expedition to the Kermadecs, which you can read about on Auckland Museum's website. You can also visit Young Ocean Explorers.

Steve's tips for getting your family into the underwater world this summer

Marine reserves are great places to go, because you get a glimpse of what it used to be like. The fish populations and biodiversity at reserves like Goat Island are much greater than you'll find in unprotected areas.

Choose the marine reserves that are less known. With many you can snorkel right off the beach. Visit DOC's website for marine reserves A to Z.

The Poor Knights should be on everyone's bucket list. The kelp forests and fish life are magnificent and world-class.

Do you have a passion you want to pursue? An AMP Scholarship can help you to do your thing. Applications are now open and close on September 18. To apply for a scholarship of up to $10,000 or simply get inspired, go to