Restoring the Hauraki Gulf, a process of reconnection

By Andy Kenworthy

The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) is currently focused on two major national projects. We are working to protect and restore the health of New Zealand’s water. We are working to make this nation a world leading low carbon circular economy. Through GulfX in the Auckland region we will be looking to the mauri or life force of Tikapa Moana/The Hauraki Gulf as the measure of our success.

The saying ‘Ko au te wai, ko te wai ko au/I am the water and the water is me’, is, thankfully, now familiar to many New Zealanders. When the water is healthy, we are healthy. But, equally, when the water is unhealthy, it is because we are unhealthy. When the water’s mauri, or life giving essence, is degraded, it is a reflection of a deficit in us.

What then, does the current state of the Hauraki Gulf tell us about ourselves? If the Gulf is us, then while things might look good on the surface our well-being is not adequately protected by law. The many organisms that make us up are badly depleted. Our life supporting channels are clogged with waste and contamination. If we pause for a moment, we can feel it.

We could continue to try to ‘symptom swat’, like we sometimes do with other aspects of our health. Instead of painkillers and plasters, we can look to the first aid of beach clean-ups and protection for some areas or some species. That helps tackle the emergency. In our GulfX programme, SBN is looking to add to those tools.

But on their own these things won’t resolve the underlying disease. Until that is done more and more symptoms will appear. Currently we have systems that remove the life from the water and pump pollution in, season after season. We need to permanently change them.

That’s why we have brought together major areas of our nationwide work, and applied them to GulfX. The GulfX project has received funding from Gulf Innovation Fund Together (G.I.F.T) – a Foundation North initiative.

Through GulfX, our promotion of litter traps will help reduce plastic flows to the sea. That’s important as a band aid solution. But reducing and redesigning problematic plastic packaging through our circular economy work will begin to tackle the problem at source. Assisting commercial fleet managers to specify copper free brake pads for their vehicles will help stem the tide of heavy metals disrupting the web of life below the waves. But accelerating the transition to an efficient and zero carbon transport system will reduce pollution of all kinds from fossil fuelled vehicles.

At the same time we are accelerating our established and successful Million Metres Streams project. This will plant more of the waterways in the Hauraki catchment with native plants and trees.

All these measures also help tackle climate change, which is radically altering and disrupting the marine environment.

GulfX will be launched at a special event at SEALIFE Kelly Tarlton’s THIS THURSDAY February 28. It’s only $20 for members and $40 for non-members. The evening includes time to experience exclusive access to the aquariums, drinks and nibbles. You can find out more about the programme and meet with some of the innovative people we are working with.

In the coming weeks also look out for how you can get involved with the project by becoming a GulfX Supporter.

Rachel Brown is SBN CEO.

“GulfX gathers the power of SBN’s network around the restoration of a much loved national treasure,” she says. “The Gulf is about to hit the global stage during the 2021 America’s Cup and APEC meeting of world leaders.

“We are looking for more partners and supporters to help us build momentum. We want to apply this model to other areas of the country. Together we can help protect and restore the natural treasures that make New Zealand and New Zealanders so special.”

Book your tickets for Thursday’s launch event now, as space is limited.