The Centre has been in operation since 1990 after a long hard twelve years of struggle by a few dedicated volunteers.
A group of local yachtsmen and teachers (Don St.Clair Brown, Don Burfoot, Laurie Baxter, Ian Sage, Dr. Ross Garrett and John Orams,) responded to the vision of fellow yachsman, Dr. David Gray, that a Centre be built on the present site which was designated “Conditional Use Reserve:” land belonging to Takapuna City Council. In 1980 this site was littered with building debris, scraps of machinery and foundations of early buildings. These basic amenities had serviced the large Long Bay camping population as well as local holiday residents in their numerous baches. There was a store with petrol pumps –started by Tom Vaughan about 1920 but taken over by Mr and Mrs Aston and demolished about 1950 (?), A butchery owned by Mr Lopes which later became a private bach, a holiday house built above the sea wall (1956) still tenanted in 1989.
Various designs were developed based on a comprehensive 1983 Needs Survey of some 242 schools and possible user groups throughout the Auckland region. The Survey revealed some uncomfortable facts that continue to be relevant today – 88% of schools lacked facilities for developing marine skills, 74% lacked the finance to pursue them, 69% lacked a suitable location. An average of 32% of children (up to 50% of junior classes) from South and West Auckland had never been to the beach! An incredulous Government conducted its own survey in 1985 which confirmed these findings.
Finally, after five changes of design and staging of the development, obtaining loans from East Coast Bays City Council and Takapuna City Council, ASB Trust and a minor contribution from the Government, the first stage (dormitories and service block) was opened by the Governor General Sir Paul Reeves in March 1990.
An activities hall / lecture room, with office were added in 1992. This hall enabled MERC to hold the highly popular annual Winter Lecture Series on the theme, ‘The Sea Around Us’ for the past twelve years, all proceeds going to subsidise disadvantaged children’s fees at the Centre. Improvements for staff quarters and storage of equipment have been developed since with grant monies.