AUT’s Interim Dean of Health and Environmental Sciences Professor Mark Orams was recognised as the Kaitiaki o te Taiao (environmental leader) at the Blake Leadership Awards ceremony last week.
A professor in sport and recreation, Professor Orams was awarded along with five others: Te reo Māori champion Scotty Morrison, young women advocate Fran McEwen, entrepreneur Michael Marr, indigenous rights advocate Dr Chris Tooley, and student leader Benjamin Burrow.
Professor Orams, also known as the sailing professor, actually sailed with Sir Peter Blake, and was so inspired by his leadership style, he wrote a book about it so others could learn from his example. He says the most important thing he learned from Sir Peter was the value of your team. “Your role as a leader is to try and bring out the best of everybody,” he says.
Raised in Waitara on the Taranaki coastline, the sea has been the steady backdrop for Mark’s life and career. He says academically his primary interest is how human interactions in tourism and recreation impact the sea and its marine life.
He believes his parents attracted him towards a life of learning and academic – both of them were school teachers.
It was while he was still competing as a professional sailor in 1995 that he completed his PhD in geographical and marine sciences.
His love of sailing and surfing inspired a passion to protect the sea and its wildlife, and he has turned his career of international success in sailing into one of science and study - achievements that have also attracted international recognition.
In 2010, Professor Orams co-founded and became chairman of the International Society for Coastal and Marine Tourism, he also serves on the Sustainability Commission for World Sailing, and on the boards of the NZL Sailing Foundation, The New Zealand Sailing Trust, the Sir Peter Blake Marine Education and Recreation Centre and the Air New Zealand Environment Trust.
In a time of rapid environmental deterioration that can feel overwhelming, Professor Orams said it was youth that gave him hope for the future.
"It fills me with hope when I meet young people who don't have that sort of cynicism that comes with age.
"They have this optimism of youth and looking forward, and a sense of 'we can make a difference'."