Given the Centre’s temporary closing many of the opinions in the original ABOUT text below are out of date. Our Youth Patron is no longer that youthful and he and his family have returned to the UK. The Trust has been disestablished however Nick Gerritsen and Luit Bieringa are still active and keen to reestablish the concept in another NZ location or assist others who wish to engage assistance to do so.

However the basic concept expressed in the original text still stands as the guiding principle to any future configuration.

Whales and whaling have featured prominently in New Zealand’s economic and cultural life over the centuries. And most, if not all, of that history, is embedded in and scattered throughout the larger museum collections in New Zealand.

However there is no single organisation or museum which devotes its entire organisation to that natural, cultural and social history and its current manifestations in all its richness and in depth.

While the National Museum and subsequently its offspring, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, have always had a specialist, largely scientific, brief in this area and has recently addressed the wider issues associated with whales and whaling in its touring exhibition Tohorā, it and the small museums at Butler Point and Kaikoura are the exception.

In other words there is no natural home for the ideas and objects connected to our cetacean, whale and whaling history or more importantly ideas and issues pertaining to the marine biodiversity of New Zealand , the Pacific and the Southern Oceans.

Given our rich history and diverse range of knowledge residing in various academic, research and commercial enterprises as well as in the private domain throughout the country, it is the intention of the NWC Development Trust to create an information network and eventually a physical entity which can operate as a central information, research and education portal.

The reason that Picton and the Marlborough Sounds are the catalyst for this project would be obvious to most people with some knowledge of New Zealand’s pre-European and post-contact whaling activities.

Not only was the Sounds area the epicentre of 19th and early 20th century whaling enterprises, it also has the only substantial refurbished whaling station in the country near Tory Channel, recently refurbished by the Department of Conservation with the help of many of the ex-whalers.

In addition to identifiable and extant shore-based whaling sites at nearby Kaikoura and Port Underwood, Tory Channel was the scene of the most intensive whaling operations in New Zealand until commercial whaling ceased in 1964.

Given the large number of these extant sites within a comfortable radius of Picton, it would seem obvious that a National Whale Centre situated in Picton is as logical as it is to have America’s best known whaling museum in New Bedford.

The Centre’s Vision is:

  • To further knowledge of and about cetaceans, with an emphasis on whales, whaling history and the ocean ecosystems through information, research and exhibition programmes and through such programmes explore local, national and international histories and tell and share the stories with as wide a public as possible thus contributing to future sustainable marine environments
  • To engage young people and their parents in the journeys we endeavour to undertake.

A museum without walls/ an information hub

Since the earlier presentation of a National Whale Museum concept in 2007, there has been a significant shift away from the notion of a “bricks and mortar” and collections based organisation.

As a first step the National Whale Centre intends to attract and engage its potential constituency through its blog and subsequently website, concentrating on the sharing of ideas, information, activities and links with like-minded organisations, and be a more dynamic and contemporary organisation looking to the future that can:

  • Engage a younger generation with issues concerning marine bio- diversity
  • Act as an information hub on all matters pertaining to cetaceans, marine biodiversity and sustainable aquacultural ventures
  • Establish links between national and international museums and organisations involved in research and issues pertaining to whales, dolphins and porpoises and related environmental concerns
  • Create opportunities for people to share experiences, activities and information no matter where they are in the world and in the process connect them with their local organisations while maintaining contact with the National Whale Centre
  • Engage with issues and research pertaining to cetaceans by informing participants with a range of information and viewpoints that allow informed debate and discussion
  • Share the relationship Māori society, both pre- and post-contact, has had with whales and whaling
  • Share the history of New Zealand’s whale and whaling history through the unique position Picton and the Marlborough Sounds have held as the epicentre of New Zealand’s shore based whaling industry until 1964

Stage 1 of the centre’s programme aims to:

  • Create the relevant information hub structure in order to engage with its supporters and future members
  • Develop designs for a container centre to be sited on the Picton foreshore which will act as a promotional, hi-tech information centre for those visiting or passing through Picton
  • Develop educational and community based activities for children and their parents as well as school communities that can be undertaken no matter whether in Riverton, Kaitaia or Anchorage
  • Act as a conduit through which whaling history memorabilia can be channeled to the appropriate collecting institutions

Stage 2

  • With the provision of a ready-made venue, courtesy of Port Marlborough, the Trust has opened a Display and Development Centre on the Picton Foreshore as an active display and information centre.

Stage 3

  • Create a more permanent facility for the display of temporary exhibitions for local and other venues and operate as an active new media and research info-hub

The National Whale Centre Development Trust is precisely that- a development trust charged with the creation of a long term and sustainable National Whale Centre sited in one of the world’s most exciting and relevant maritime locations in the world. The nature and success of its short-term activities will lay the groundwork for a sustainable, relevant and dynamic organisation that will contribute to the dialogues we all need to engage in.

The Trust

The NWC Development Trust is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit education, exhibition and research organization dedicated to sharing and promoting whaling histories and contemporary issues pertaining to cetaceans and the marine environment.

All of the trust members charged with advancing the National Whale Centre concept live in the Picton/Sounds area and have had a long-standing commitment to the development of Picton and the Sounds with interests in aqua-marine issues, conservation projects, Picton Foreshore developments and the area’s history.


Nick Gerritsen

Nick Gerritsen is a Picton-based catalyst and social entrepreneur.

He loves BIG ideas – ones that are going to lead to global structural change – and is committed to the culture of innovation – unafraid of operating beyond existing boundaries.

He specialises in developing technology propositions from the ground up, and has been one of the leaders promoting New Zealands contribution to the global clean tech revolution. In addition he is also involved in projects in the internet /online sectors that unlock entirely new transactions.

He is co-founder of leading renewable fuel developer NXT Fuels www.nxtfuels.com , along with Celsias www.celsias.co.nz , Carbonscape www.carbonscape.com and Foodspy www.foodspy.io ; and besides being founding Chair of the National Whale Centre Development Trust, is a Trustee of The Akina Foundation www.akina.org.nz and The Land Trust www.thelandtrust.co.nz.

He operates within a global network across the innovation and capital markets.

Nick graduated from the University of Canterbury, Christchurch with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). During his legal career, he advised leading corporates on intellectual property and later enjoyed a string of successful business ventures, most notably in radio, and software sectors. He has been a consultant to New Zealand On Air, Radio New Zealand, Te Mangai Paho (the Maori Broadcasting Funding Agency), and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Nick is based in Picton and is undertaking post graduate study at the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership.

Luit Bieringa

Luit Bieringa, the only non-Picton participant, has some 40+ years’ experience in the fine arts and social history area. He was the Director of the National Art Gallery during the 80s and has since then managed and curated numerous fine art, photography and social history exhibitions which have toured New Zealand and overseas. Together with his wife Jan he has directed a number of documentaries, one on the photographer Ans Westra and the Man in the Hat, being a portrait of the country’s foremost art dealer Peter McLeavey.
His studies on the Marlborough heritage industry led to the production of a feasibility study for a National Whale Museum for the region which has since then led to the more modest, yet more relevant and contemporary notion of a National Whale Centre idea presented here.

Whom we consult

In driving the NWC concept we are conscious of the fact that we are, as a Trust and Project Director, not the experts on whaling history, marine bio-diversity, Maori / pre-European history or environmental issues and as such many of the ideas underpinning the concept are based on extensive advice and discussions with the many experts in the ex-whaling community, the Department of Conservation, natural museum experts, marine biologists, various iwi groups in the immediate Marlborough area as well as organisations such as Forest and Bird, the Whale and Dolphin Trust, Project Jonah and many others both within New Zealand and overseas.

We have also established links with the many museums in New Zealand and overseas which hold significant local collections of whaling memorabilia, are engaged in significant educational and exhibition programmes and address issues similar to those that will engage the National Whale Centre in Picton.