We are both trained teachers with masters degrees. Having started our ecotours in 1990 we were the first regular tour operators working exclusively in the Catlins area. We had a vision of how sustainable tourism could operate in the area without damaging the precious resource this remote environment offered. By example, we have encouraged other operators to work in similar ways with an emphasis on small groups, personalised quality tours and services. We have been ecotourism pioneers in a conservative area where logging and land development have been the main industries.
Winning the following awards, national and local, has brought publicity to our business and philosophy:
We have been showcased on TV:
We were guest speakers at the NZ Adventure Tourism conference 1997, and have spoken about our sustainable tourism development at various meetings:
We ensure that we become involved in local promotion group activities and local Council development planning, always advocating strongly for the sustainable development and the proactive management of tourism development in the Catlins.
We are active outside the area as well. Fergus is a member of the Southland Institute of Technology Tourism and Travel Advisory Committee and an appointed member of the Otago Conservation Board. Mary has also been a board member for four years. We are both long term members of the Forest and Bird Society, Fergus having been the Chairman of the Southland branch for many years and serving on the National Executive.
Our commitment to sustainability and biodiversity is recognised nationally, and we were selected to represent tourism on the 2000 Biodiversity Calendar.
We are recognised locally, nationally and internationally as educators in the field of ecotourism, and student groups from the Southland Institute of Technology Tourism and the University of Otago have come for two to four days each year as part of their course. We also take individual students studying Ecotourism at Flinders University, South Australia, for the four weeks work experience component of their second year of study.
Our expertise in interpretation of New Zealands natural and cultural history is recognised by the School for International Training, (SITNZ), based at the University of Waikato, (we have had their students each semester for the last four years). We have also organised and run tours for college student groups from Eastern Nazarene College, Boston USA (three times); and Merrit College, California USA (twice). Fergus is also contracted several times a year to lead Elder Hostel and College for Seniors programmes organised by the Southern Institute of Technology.
We have three children: a 29 year old daughter(and son-in-law), a 27 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. We now have a grand daughter - born 31 August 2000! Also a dachshund named Cloudberry and a house we built ourselves overlooking the sea and forest.
The Sutherlands conduct our Exploring the Catlins program.
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