Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Photo Essay: All is not OK, in the Bay by Greg Novak

All photos by Greg Novak

As the Rena environmental disaster unfolded in the Bay of Plenty toward the end of last week, Black photographer Greg Novak, a keen environmentalist, decided he would take a trip to the sandy foreshore of Tauranga and Mt Maunganui to see if he could help the clean up and take a few pictures of the process while he was there.

We asked Greg for a few words about his soujourn:

"On day four of this disaster Papamoa looked like a war zone. While the media in general focus on who is to blame, and who will foot the bill I was more interested in the human face of this environmental disaster.

"The local community were organized, often self resourced and most importantly willing to deal with the hand they had been dealt and clean up the coast. However Maritime NZ's closure of the beaches made it increasingly difficult for community groups to participate in the clean up. Local iwi were certainly extremely prominent in this drive to get in there and clean up the coast. This was a community that treasure their environment and was an immense resource that perhaps should have been better utilized.

"In the more remote areas away from the media attention locals were receiving no resources or assistance from Maritime New Zealand but had come up with their own solutions and the clean up was well under way. In my mind these solutions using Sphagnum moss and paper pulp were a lot more sensible than a lot of the actual sanctioned clean up methods offered by Maritime NZ and really highlight the number eight fence wire attitude that New Zealanders have in the face of a disaster. More importantly there was action straight away which was both considered and organized and intelligent.
Below is a condensed version of a greenpeace blog, but nonetheless, in my opinion, the most important point, as a way of life that has been going on mainly undisrupted for many generations is now potentially at an end."

"On Motiti Island, the area closest to where the Rena grounded, a local community of 30 were perhaps the hardest hit. The livelihoods of those living there has been ripped apart with the toxic contamination of the marine food chain on which they rely. Those living on Motiti are largely self-sufficient, growing food and harvesting from the sea, the sea is their livelihood, they have no supermarket. The seafood has sustained these people and their descendants for up to a thousand years, it really is all they have."

The saga continues with the imminent break-up of the boat looming as a serious threat to the wildlife of the bay - even the Takapu on White Island may be affected - and the lifestyle and livelihood of the region's people. Our thoughts are with all concerned.