Every marae has their kai moana man and out at Te Puna we have a gun fulla, or should I say we had one.

Last Saturday while sitting out the back of the marae, peeling spuds for the annual hospice hangi with the kai moana - who is also the gun hangi man, the subject came up of how the kai cupboard of Tangaroa was looking.

"How's the kai moana Bro?"

"Pretty much stuffed my Bro," was the saddened answer.


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"The kokororo [horse mussels] have completely disappeared, the cockles went before them and now the titiko are all but buggered off as well. All that is left are the fish and even they are disappearing."

"Why was this" I asked.

"Our moana is pirau Bro, its been poisoned by profit."

When your kai moana man says he has stopped going out into the harbour to gather kai for his marae then we don't need any scientific reports or authorities standing on soap boxes to tell us any different.

They know just like the generations before them – who handed down the knowledge of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) that when the whenua (land) and the moana are healthy, then so will the people be, and right now the moana, the whenua (land) and the people are anything but healthy.

Almost daily we are being told it is time we took climate change and the pollution of our waters seriously.

This year's United Nations climate report tabled in Poland today records the largest gap yet between where we are and where we need to be.


Between 2014 and 2016, global emissions of carbon dioxide from industry and the production of energy were essentially stable while the global economy grew modestly - but in 2017 these emissions went up by 1.2 per cent, pushed along by higher GDP.

While the rise might seem small, it needs to be seen in context of efforts to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C, as recently outlined in a key IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report from the UN.

A climate scientist from Victoria University in Wellington, James Renwick, in response to the damning report, said it's never too late to act.

Renwick said even with just one degree of warming, we've seen major forest fires, unprecedented rainfalls and severe droughts. He said with three degrees, these events will be "more powerful and more damaging".

"There will be the risk of major crop failures, damage to food security, and water availability," he told Morning Report on Radio New Zealand.

"We're putting GDP growth ahead of the future of humanity. It's frightening, it's heart-breaking to see this."

Amazingly, a climate scientist is saying the same thing as our kai moana man.

That for me is frightening, heart-breaking and something we should all be doing something about for our kids' sake.

Perhaps we need to listen to the kai moana man and see what he sees.

For me the answer is intensified farming both agriculturally and horticulturally where the name of the game is to extract as much as you can for maximum profit, and leave the damage done for the following generations to fix up.

It's that simple.

We have more cows than people in this land of the long paddock and to keep them fed we have pumped on more and more fertilisers, that eventually end up as nitrates in the aquifers, the waterways and then out into where the kai-moana man waits no longer to find a feed for his whanau.

Otago University Department of Health Professor Michael Baker says it's a product of intensified farming in New Zealand, and the country's love affair with putting lots of fertiliser in the environment that is the problem.

"There's more research coming out showing that levels of nitrate below our current drinking water standard are associated with an increased risk of cancer," he says.

The same goes for the horticultural intensification where this season will see more whenua than ever exposed to intensified spraying. No one is brave enough to test the land to understand the damage done.

One thing is for sure, the spray fairies don't take it away.

The big loser besides all of us who ingest, inhale and absorb these pollutants are the overseas visitors who come to see, feel, touch and taste the clean green 100 per cent pure lands of Aotearoa. When the word gets out the reputational damage to the second highest earner for the country will take a huge hit.

So why not get real and start fixing up the damage by shifting the short-term profit driven focus to the long-term sustainability of our whenua and moana.

For this to happen will take real leadership and that can only come from those who allow the poisoning to happen.

When our kids look back on the mistakes we made, they will ask why, why did they allow this to happen, why don't we have any more kai moana, and why can't we build our whare on whenua that our ancestors fought for?

Perhaps the wise old kai moana man will give them the answer.