News has broken via social media that Jeroen Jongejans, owner and founder of 'Dive! Tutukaka,' died on Monday 21 February 2022. He was 62. It is thought the probable cause was a medical event.
Dive! Tutukaka posted the following on their Facebook page.
"Jeroen Jongejans, owner and founder of Dive! Tutukaka passed away suddenly last night. He was on the water, in his happy place - paddle boarding in Tūtūkākā Harbour. We are all struggling to come to terms with this loss.
All boats are cancelled, until at least the middle of next week. The shop is open for friends, family, and the community as we process and grieve - feel free to drop by. The space is full of light, love and tears, as we come together with positive memories of this legend of a man. All our flags are at half-mast, and will stay that way."
A relentless driving force behind the Poor Knights Marine reserve, leaving one hell of a legacy. Clarke Gayford, 'Fish of Day' presenter
Dutchman Jeroen Jongejans made a profound impact on this world. He founded the award-winning, premier dive centre Dive! Tutukaka serving the Poor Knights Islands, off New Zealand.
The heart of Tutukaka
Jeroen Jongejans' profile on the 'Dive! Tutukaka' website is typical of the man.
"Jeroen is 'Boss' but he still fills tanks and answers phones. Mr Perpetual Positive Energy, Jeroen has lived on the Tutukaka Coast, running dive operations, for nearly thirty years (so he’s almost a local!). Sinking the HMNZS Tui and Waikato just off the coast was Jeroen’s idea, and wreck divers have been thanking him ever since. Jeroen is a committed lobbyist for World Heritage Status for the Poor Knights and an advocate for Marine Reserves and National Parks around New Zealand. Sustainability is his passion; a bit of a hippy really!"
Poor Knights. The best sub-tropical diving in the world. Dive! Tutukaka
Jeroen Jongejans' life was devoted to tourism and community service - he was a big promoter of marine reserves, the environment and a huge advocate for New Zealand scuba diving. Jeroen Jongejans was a positive 'pay it forward man', and a mentor to many. His death has been a massive shock, and many are devastated at his loss.
A fierce advocate for tourism
Kelly Tarlton, who helped pioneer scuba diving in New Zealand, said: "Jeroen was a man who had a lot of passion for Tūtūkākā and Northland, and the dive world. He made a big difference, inspiring people to bring his passion of diving out, he was a lot of fun – fit and energetic. Always a big smile on his face, positive energy, and passionate about getting people to experience the marine world first hand through diving and snorkelling.”
The Department of Conservation
A spokesman for the Department of Conservation (DoC) stated ''We in the conservation world in Northland are deeply feeling the loss of Jeroen. He was a long-term active member and chair of the Northland Conservation Board and was a passionate advocate for the Poor Knights Marine Reserve, actively promoting its uniqueness and conservation value from its creation, to this day,'' DoC said in a statement.
''He tirelessly advocated for more marine protection to our government ministers, the tourism industry in New Zealand and internationally, and his local community of Tutukaka. His vibrant personality and drive for action will be sorely missed, as will his generosity in sharing his boats at Dive! Tutukaka to educate young and old about protecting our marine environment.''
"Where can I begin… Tutukaka, lost one of most shining stars, a true legend, that I had the pleasure to work for, for four years. A great entrepreneur, who create Dive! Tutukaka, one of the biggest and most efficient company in south hemisphere, a marine reserve, (that know working in Hawaii I See how right he is), two sunken war ships that created a massive artificial reef along TuUkaka coast, and many others great things. A man with endless positivity, with a great sense for the innovations: electric cars, electric boats, the attention to the details, open business in remote area…
I remember how I use to joke with him about El Tigre, his slowest boat but his favorite one, his jokes on my accent, i remember his constant positive state of mind, even when everything was dark, he could see the bright." Simone Matucci
Sarah Greener shared this story on social media. " 'You know what I think? It’s time for an ice cream sundae.' Cue evil stare from this mum as her toddler’s eyes lit up in delight as her new friend Jeroen led her towards Schnappa Rock for said ice cream sundae.
Jeroen was a friend, a mentor, a rescuer when needed, an ear to bounce ideas off which always came back with tweaks and suggestions, possibly the best networker I have ever met, a sharer of stories and someone who always saw opportunity and the positive side of everything."
"A mentor, friend and the person that really got me started on the path of business and entrepreneurship has passed away suddenly.
Jeroen Jongejans showed me the good that businesses can bring to the community with the right values. He taught me, through my stint at Dive! Tutukaka, about the way to treat customers, staff and community with love and positive energy. He was my role model right out of uni, and showed me the power of good business, and that anyone can do it no matter where you start in life. Without him, I will not be who I am today.
The impact and hole he has left behind is immense. I am ever more committed to carrying the torch and legacy that he has given many around NZ and the world, to spread his influence and story through my efforts and businesses. He was the first person I interviewed for my 100 interviews project, and shared with me about his life and his passion for positive business impact." Jeriel Tan
Jeroen was incredibly passionate about his business, the environment, oceans and sustainability. Mira Woldberg, Netherlands Ambassador to New Zealand
"We had the honor and pleasure of knowing Jeroen and his ventures, travelling from our home in California to dive the Poor Knights, a testament to his love of conservation and perspicacity to know how the Reserve would positively affect tourism as well." JDiver
"Had the pleasure of chatting with Jeroen a few times while working on stories. I'd always have a big smile on my face by the end of the conversation. He was a lovely man." Matthew Theunissen
If you want to go quickly - travel alone. If you want to travel far, go together. Jeroen Jongejans
Service to the community
Jeroen Jongejans believed in serving his community.
Warren Slater stated "As a District Councillor, when we were attending council meetings, Jeroen came across as a person ready and willing to discuss and debate, with others, including ourselves, what was taking place or being considered. His input, as far as we could see, was well thought out, logical and we did admire his intelligence, reasoning and dedication to his district. Although we may not have agreed on all matters we can say that the council lost 'one of the good ones' when he left."
Jeroen, in your time you have made our world a better place with a healthier environment for which you will be remembered. Warren Slater
Jeroen Jongejan's long list of service included nine years on the Tūtūkākā Resident and Ratepayer Association, chair of the Tūtūkākā Coast Promotions, seven years on the Northland Tourism Development Group, four years as president of the New Zealand Underwater Association, nine years on the Northland Conservation Board, five years on the Northland Inc Board, three years as a Whangārei District Councillor, four years on the Whangārei District Council Tourism Trust, a decade with the Northland Chamber of Commerce, 10-years as patron of the Tūtūkākā Coastguard, and more.
Jeroen was 'Pure Salt' (of the earth) Pete Mesley, Lust4Rust
Respected expedition leader Pete Mesley kindly shared the following with me. "We all know Jeroen’s successful business accolades. But most of all Jeroen was a 'bloody good bastard'. I always enjoyed having a drink with him and sharing the days events. He was always interested to know what new dive sites we just visited. Jeroen was 'Pure Salt' (of the earth)! His presence, mana, and constant positive energy will be the hardest missed."
Article updated 13 March 2022 to include Pete Mesley's tribute