Together we can clean up the Gulf

By Shilo Zhang

Clean up the Hauraki Gulf
The Sustainable Business Network is looking to the waters around Auckland. They are both a focus for our activities in the region and a barometer of our success.

In New Zealand we have one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of water on our biggest city’s doorstep. The Hauraki Gulf/Tikapa Moana/Te Moana-nui-a-Toi.  The everyday well-being of more than half the country’s people directly relates to that water’s health. A deeper connection to this must underpin our future.

SBN began this latest phase of work on the Gulf last year. The new project received funding from Gulf Innovation Fund Together (G.I.F.T) – a Foundation North initiative.

This work began with an SBN report on engaging businesses within the Gulf catchment. Part of the founding principles of GIFT was the need to address these issues within the context of mauri – the essential living essence. For SBN that means developing greater knowledge, understanding and respect for the indigenous world view of Te Ao Māori. And it asks that we explore what this means within ourselves.

The report helped the team identify three areas where we can have a major positive influence. Decades of sediment run off is smothering life in the Gulf. Heavy metal run off, mostly from road transport is leaving a toxic load in the waters. And plastic pollution is at least as pervasive here as in other waters.

SBN’s work has addressed various aspects of these issues for many years. Our Million Metres Streams project helps stabilise New Zealand’s waterways with native trees and plants. This reduces and mitigates sediment run off. Our initiatives on smarter transport help encourage greater use of public transport. We promote walking, cycling and car-sharing. This reduces the use of individual, fossil fuel burning cars. Our extensive work on the circular economy is tackling plastic pollution. We are working to transform New Zealand’s approach to plastics and plastic packaging.

The project also took on additional challenges. We are assisting business in the Gulf catchment to install additional litter traps in stormwater drains. We are promoting copper free brake pads for vehicle fleets to reduce heavy metal pollution.

Because we are a network, we are also helping to connect other people’s ideas on these issues. For example, we have assisted the drive to switch some of the Gulf’s ferry fleets to electric power.

On a deeper level we aim to clarify our own spiritual connection with the Gulf, and with the natural world. When we come from the right place in our own relationships to each other and the natural world we can make fundamental changes. That will create long term progress.

Some of the most impactful work may also be the most subtle. It may be as simple as the way we greet people at events. We might choose words that embody manaakitanga – extending love and hospitality that consciously enhances and preserves others’ dignity. We may do more to express deeper elements of kaitiakitanga – guardianship based on direct connection to landscape. We might pause more to give thanks before eating. We may do more to acknowledge where we are in this landscape.

This work can take other forms, outside of the norm. Last year, for example, the Million Metres Streams team created a short dramatic production. The Memory of Water told the story of the waters of the Gulf from the perspective of the water itself.

We encourage you to join us on this voyage. In February of next year we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. We seek more businesses that want to establish a deeper link to the waters around them. We are here to help businesses learn more about the potential for storm drain litter traps on their sites. And we would love to hear from fleet managers considering switching to copper-free brake pads.

Most importantly, we are looking for business people who want a deeper connection to the waters around these islands. Together we can find innovative ways to regenerate the life we share.