‘A HOE’- A COASTAL JOURNEY
Professional surfer, Dave Rastovich was recently in New Zealand to bring attention to the fight against seabed mining. He completed a two-week, 350km paddle up the West Coast of New Zealand. Kiwi local, Bernadette Gavin, joined him on the last leg from Raglan to Piha...
Images by Hinton Dawe
I pull on my wetsuit and stand near the waters edge. The wind is a stiff westerly with white caps off the shore and the tail end of a swell running steadily just under the surface. The conditions are far from favourable.
I gaze down at my feet now covered in the fine, powdery black iron sand that our west coast beaches are known for and for a moment I marvel at its striking inky blue sheen caught in the sun’s building light.
Right now foreign owned companies are lined up to strip mine the seabed of tens of thousands of square kilometres along the west coast of New Zealand. They want to tear billions of tonnes of sand from the seafloor leaving vast oceanic dead zones.
Our world class waves are shaped by this sand. The fish feed from the seafloor and much of the area they want to mine is covering the only habitat of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin, the smallest and rarest dolphin in the world. If we allow this to happen we undoubtedly reduce the chance of recovery for the Maui’s.
Thinking of this, I am once again filled with a myriad of emotion. Disbelief that anyone could even think of doing this, an unbearable sadness to think of what we would lose if this were to occur and a fervid knowing that I must do everything I can to put a stop to this potential environmental catastrophe.
Being a sailor and a surfer I have a special connection with the ocean and have had the incredible fortune to meet and interact with many angels of the subaquatic world, including the Maui’s dolphin. To think that within this vast body of water there are only 55 Maui’s dolphin left, with only 20 breeding females saddens me to my core. To think that if seabed mining went ahead and we lost each and every one of them is almost too much to bear.
Someone calls my name and I am brought back to why I am here. Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovitch and my family and friends from KASM (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) and S4C (Surfers For Cetaceans) gather in a circle and clasp hands. Rasta is here to help raise awareness around the issues of seabed mining and the threat to the Maui’s dolphin. He has set out to paddle from Cape Taranaki to Piha, some 350 km of dynamic coastline. The mission; to inform individuals and unite coastal communities. The paddle will take two weeks and Rasta is at the halfway point, my hometown, Raglan.
Together in our circle we acknowledge the sacredness of the land we stand upon, the ocean we are about to be enveloped by and hold in our minds and hearts the purpose of the paddle. Today, I feel this blessing as especially poignant. I have decided to accompany Rasta in a sea kayak on this leg from Manu Bay to Port Waikato.
With the New Zealand Government a heartbeat away from selling our seabed it is absolutely critical that we as coastal people stand up and make our voices heard. I knew this paddle could be dangerous and would be challenging. But this was my chance as a woman, a surfer and lover of the ocean to stand up and be heard.
Facing north I look far into the distance at where the hazy coastline tapers away and land becomes one with the ocean. Somewhere beyond that point lay our destination. This long and lonely stretch of coastline, a veritable ‘no (wo)mans land’ with its dramatic, ragged cliffs and exposed beaches would not offer us any place to pullout or rest. Once we set out on this 47 km run there would be no turning back.
I push away from the shore and into the tousled Tasman Sea. I am fueled by my promise to do what I can to protect this beautiful little dolphin and wholeheartedly determined to paddle for the next 6- 8 hours of arduous coastline.
If you would like to help protect this coastline, please visit www.KASM.org.nz or www.s4cglobal.org