It is with great sadness we record the passing of friend and colleague, Surfbreak committee member Matt Skellern, who died on 7 May, aged 30.
Matt was a well known identity amongst the surfing community as a keen surfer with a great passion for the environment. With a Bachelor of Planning from Auckland University he first started working as a Coastal Consents Specialist for the former Auckland Regional Council followed by working at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. Matt was also a national representative for Young Planners at the New Zealand Planning Institute. “I chose planning as a career because I wanted to do something for the environment. People recognise the environmental mistakes of the past, and now we realise the importance of acting sustainably if we want to create a better future.” he wrote on his Auckland University profile.
It was in 2009, when preparing for the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) review, that the Surfbreak Protection Society was put in touch with Matt who offered his planning skills and became one of Surfbreak’s expert witnesses to present evidence at the NZCPS Hearing. A relationship evolved and in the following years Matt assisted Surfbreak on numerous campaigns, preparing evidence for hearings, notably the Te Arai and Aramoana cases, and writing submissions for Regional Plan reviews to roll out the protection for surfbreaks now cemented in the NZCPS.
In October 2010 Matt organised a very successful lecture on the protection of surfbreaks at Auckland University sponsored by the NZ Planning Institute and the Coastal Society. He also wrote articles for surfing magazines, the Planning Quarterly and the Coastal News.
Buoyed by the success of the NZCPS that now provides for protection of surfbreaks in NZ and the developments in this field happening overseas, such as the National Surfing Reserves in Australia and the World Surfing Reserves project, Matt decided to go back to university to write his thesis on international planning mechanisms for the protection of surfbreaks.
Matt was given a sabbatical from his Surfbreak Protection commitments to be able to focus on his thesis, which he was due to complete this year.
The flood of tributes on Matt’s facebook page talk of the many other aspects of his life. A passion for baseball, travel, for having fun, a real character with an infectious smile, an inspiration with his enthusiasm.
Matt was farewelled by his family and friends in a service at his home in Tauranga on 11 May. The Surfbreak Protection Society sends its condolences to the family. He will be sadly missed by us all. We’d like to think his spirit lives on through his accomplishments; Matt’s name is etched on every protected surfbreak in New Zealand.