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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

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