We all care deeply about the health and wellbeing of our big blue back yard but how many of us really know what’s going on beneath the surface of our favourite beaches, bays and harbours?
Our diverse coastline is the ultimate playground: swimming, surfing, sailing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, waka ama – all on our doorstep. And our reefs, estuaries, mangroves and sea-grass beds provide a huge variety of kai moana. But they can only continue to do this if we treat them with respect and take responsibility for their wellbeing. The Te Wairua O Te Moanui trust has been formed with the aim of encouraging just that.
Te Wairua O Te Moananui – Ocean Spirit recently celebrated its first year as a registered charitable trust. Based on Northland’s beautiful Tutukaka Coast, the Trust’s vision is a healthy ocean in which coastal ecosystems and human communities thrive in a harmonious, respectful and mutually beneficial relationship, a relationship which also recognises the ocean’s intrinsic value, beyond the benefits she provides humanity. As the name also suggests, the trust embodies the strong spiritual connection between people and the ocean.
Hands on, practical community based programmes
The mission of the trust is to develop this relationship through education, research, advocacy and practical learning programmes, as well as to support the development of community-based initiatives that encourage sustainable practices in coastal and ocean eco-systems.
Nurturing a respectful relationship with the ocean is core to the trust’s vision, and we believe the most effective way of doing this is through people participating in practical projects. An example is the Trust’s Hauora Moana (Healthy Ocean) Community Monitoring Programme.
The first step in caring for our coastal waters is to monitor and understand the actual state of their various marine ecosystems. Then we can make informed decisions about where, when and how much we can responsibly take from them, to make sure we pass on healthy marine environments to future generations. So the Hauora Moana Community Monitoring Programme aims to train local community members in a qualitative monitoring method developed specifically for communities to use. It aims to provide “real-time” feedback about the health and wellbeing of specific sites important to us, which can then inform responsive and appropriate management actions.
Hauora Moana is actually based on a reef survey methodology developed in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, which was an outcome of research done by ocean ecologist and founding trustee, Glenn Edney. There Glenn investigated the correlation between traditional ecological knowledge and modern scientific ecological understanding.
Schools coastal kaitiaki
In addition to community monitoring teams, the trust is also working with Ngunguru Primary School as part of their Coastal Kaitiaki programme which aims to develop ecological understanding and foster leadership in caring for the Ngunguru estuary and the wider coastal environment.
Their programme started before the formation of the Trust and has now completed two years of monitoring. The students are enthusiastic participants in Hauora Moana while their experience below the surface presents the opportunity to engage with the wider local community about the state of health of the estuary.
Waiheke Island initiative
In November last year two of the trustees, Glenn Edney and Janey Pares Edney, attended a four-day workshop on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf to facilitate the Hauora Moana Programme a consequence of which was the trust was invited to bring Hauora Moana to Waiheke Island as part of a pilot programme to build community-based management capacity around the care of local marine ecosystems.
Another success story for the Trust is the SeaBin Project in Tutukaka Marina. The first of its kind and the culmination of a collaborative effort between the Trust, the Interact Club at Huanui College Glenbervie, Whangarei City Rotary Club and Tutukaka Marina. SeaBin has been in operation for nine months and has already collected more than a thousand items of plastic, from buckets, water bottles and children’s toys to micro-plastics.
In keeping with its core vision of healthy ocean and healthy communities, the trust is working with legendary voyaging catamaran designers James Wharram and Hanneke Boon to build a 65’ “Vaka Motu” with the aim of connecting and empowering coastal communities throughout Oceania. The trust is seeking financial support to turn this vision into reality.