Wakas, Government and the 1,000 strong haka

The bike ride along stunning coastline to Wellington finished with a big hill, which has become a standard way to finish a big ride here in New Zealand. But that’s ok, because at the top of the huge hill lies my friends’ house, which has a fully-stocked fridge and a bathtub. After raiding the fridge just a little bit (post cycling hungry is a new level of hunger!) and a lovely long soak I made my way down into town for the Waka Odyssey opening to the New Zealand Festival, on the waterfront.

I’ll be honest, the crowds were overwhelming. It’s been 3 months since I spent time in a busy city, but it was very moving to experience the festival opening. The waterfront Maori storytelling show stretched over the water and told the story of Aotearoa and waka journeys made from distant South Pacific shores.

Being close to one of the huge kapa haka groups (and the towering speakers) was humbling and powerful. Every haka I have seen makes me think back to anyone approaching New Zealand shores in days bygone. I can tell you one thing for sure, I’d have been petrified if I’d been on the receiving end of a haka. Witnessing the haka in person is a very powerful experience.

Following a few days of sorting through beach transect samples with young children to contribute to the Pure Tour scientific data stash was a fun task and reminded me what a shocking realisation the extent of plastic pollution is to ocean-plastic newcomers. Every time I talk to people who are shocked about the amount of plastic present on what they previously considered clean beaches, it gives me a big boost of energy to talk to as many school groups as I can while I am here.

After some much needed relaxation time with friends and checking out some of the funkier side of Wellington’s streets, I was keen to hear about some of the findings of the Pure Tour’s science and about other ocean plastics focused science being carried out around the country.

Marcus from the 5 Gyres Institute once again gave a great presentation, informing a horrified audience that some of the beach samples collected yielded more dense micro-plastics presence than many other places in the world. A very sobering thought and again, one that really boosts me in my kaupapa / mission.

Time to take real action. I had a reunion with a friend of mine, Gesa, who luckily was a great sport and agreed to turn that catch up date into helping marshall a march to Government to deliver the Greenpeace BanTheBag petition to the politician who can help get single-use plastic bags banned in New Zealand. We represented the 67,000+ people who signed to show their support for a total ban on plastic bags, rather than introducing a small levy.

Raquelle of Algalita South Pacific did a great job of wearing 660 plastic bags to show ministers how many bags are used in the average New Zealand supermarket in just 1 hour.

That’s around 400,000 bags every week nationwide; enough to link them in a chain from Auckland all the way across the Pacific Ocean to beyond Los Angeles. People all around the country are hopeful that New Zealand can pull themselves from one of the world’s most wasteful developed countries to a world leader (by outright banning plastic bags, rather than charging for them and moving the population to a more zero waste mindset).

What a fitting way to end the Pure Tour 2018 and indeed my North Island visit; outside the Beehive building, surrounded by people desperate to make a positive difference. Over to you Government, come on Jacinda, you got this!

In keeping with meeting fabulous people the whole way along the journey, I met a bunch of cyclists at the ferry terminal who are cycling the length of New Zealand in 1 month on the Te Aotearoa cycle trail mission. What a brilliant bunch of people from all corners of the planet. So the ferry journey, which I had envisaged being an admin catch up session, turned into a delightful few hours of making and hanging out with new friends from ‘my tribe’. I have no doubt that I will meet up with these accomplished cyclists at down South when they have cycled far further me and we can enjoy some more R&R time. Until then, bring on the hectic schedule visiting a squillion schools around the South Island.

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