Tuhua, a safe haven island off the east coast New Zealand, named after its abundance in the naturally occurring volcanic glass- Obsidian. The 13kms of land has been identified as a wildlife refuge since 1953, becoming a home and safe breeding ground for many species of native New Zealand birds. The open water is also welcoming to several native and sub-tropical fish species as well as being a tiki tour route for a few migratory species.
The ancestral Moari home of Te Whanau A Tauwhao ki Tuhua, identified the land as a gift of the earth (a Taonga), a place for all life to gather. Kaitiakitanga, the guardianship of the land, is in the hands of the Tuhua Trust Board to maintain the natural beauty of this taonga.
3 square nautical miles along the northern coast was created into a marine reserve in 1992. Since implemented, the oceans have been able to flourish back into its natural balanced state, where fish can fully mature, seaweed can bloom more abundantly producing us clean air, more shellfish are able to clear up the water quality. Simply because we were asked to leave part of our earth untouched. You may be familiar with the tip-over effect, which in this case means that the abundance of fish life growing within the reserve causes the abundance to grow surrounding the marine protected area. This is the ocean thanking us for giving it space to thrive back to its pre-human influenced beauty. Where fishermen are now able to gain from this act of utu. And by fishing sustainably and only taking what is needed with gratitude we are able to show Kotahitanga, togetherness with our people and the land. Not just fish for food but fish for thought.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to survey the marine life surrounding Tuhua island. The objective of the 9-day dive expedition was to collect and compare data of the protected area and non-protected area around the island to evaluate the effectiveness of the MPA. It was greatly significant just from being under the water the difference in marine life in and out of the MPA and compared to other dive locations in NZ. Backed and reasoned through the data collected. There is a significant importance of marine protected areas as without a stable ocean, there’s not a stable earth.
We do live in a world where us humans need to work alongside Papatuanuku, our mother, instead of over her. We can see to create a sustainable future, we need to give back to receive. Manaakitanga- when we extend our aroha beyond ourselves and share it to the land we inhibit, we will receive aroha back. And be able to live a long, peaceful existence on this one and only planet we share.