This Thursday just gone was World Maritime Day and what better way of celebrating the theme: “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”, than honouring two people, devoted to restoring the health of Tīkapa Moana / the Hauraki Gulf.
Moana Tamaariki-Pohe and Donna Tamaariki, from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, are twin sisters that have a deep seeded connection to their home, the Waitematā, Okahu Bay. Seeing a devastating decline in kaimoana / seafood – mussels, pipi and snapper – at Okahu Bay and the waters beyond the bay, their concerns became a driving passion to start improving the mauri / lifeforce of the whole of Tamaki Makaurau / Auckland’s big blue backyard, Tīkapa Moana.
Moana is the Deputy Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, a statutory body which promotes improving the health of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park / Ko te Pataka kai o Tikapa Moana Te Moananui a Toi. She helped pass two ambitious goals. To have 20% protection of the waters, of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park protected. Currently just 5.5% of the park is protected, including all marine protected areas and marine reserves. And to restore 1000 square kilometres of shellfish reef in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
We caught up with the twins to find more about them and what they do…
What does the Hauraki Gulf mean to you and your Whāna / family? And What role does a healthy Hauraki Gulf play in our community?
Moana: It’s probably more correct to say we have a closer connection to the Waitemata, Okahu Bay to be precise. However, you cannot love one body of water without loving all the waters and the oceans. My grandfather taught his children to respect and honour the water and all it provided, he knew the tides, the elements, the matauranga / wisdom of the Waitemata and Hauraki. The Wairua / spirit of the ocean is our rongoa / medicine.
Donna: The Waitemata is in my blood. Whatever is out in the Hauraki Gulf eventually makes its way to the shores of Okahu; and vice versa. A healthy Hauraki Gulf means healthy communities, we are all connected.
What work are you doing in the Hauraki Gulf and what inspires and motives you to undertake this role?
Moana: I am currently the Deputy Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum. in August 2018 the Forum approved two very ambitious goals. I support community projects wherever I can. If people knew the history and significance of any place would they be more inclined to take care of it? We all need to create a personal relationship with our waters, our oceans, our lands, our environment, we need to love it and nurture it and protect it.
Donna: It is privilege of being a guest in realm of Tangaroa / god of the sea, therefore it is my job to teach others what it means to respect the ocean. One of the ways we do this is by removing rubbish from the sea and from the shore whenever we see it.
I successfully advocated for the removal of the moorings from Okahu Bay. Now our bay can start to heal and I can keep on going forward with the work I’m doing.
If you had some piece of advice or encouragement to give to young women aspiring to take leadership in kaitiakitanga / guardianship of our land and waters, what would that be?
Moana: First and above all else is the kaupapa / Māori values, the kaupapa comes first. I have a fundamental ‘rule’ or maybe ‘measure’ to keep me on track, it is immensely important to remain EGO-Free and be ECO-Full. Is it ECO or EGO? If it’s EGO I walk away.
Donna: Surround yourself with like-minded people, choose your lane and go for it. Be a mosquito – the Dalai Lama said: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”