There is little doubt as to the importance of the Hauraki Gulf. Long before settlers arrived, Tangata Whenua enjoyed the abundant seafood and waterways that are so well sheltered by Aotea/Great Barrier Island.
This harbour is estimated to deliver over 2 billion dollars of value and create more than 25,000 jobs for the lucky people surrounding it.
But for more than two lifespans, we have been biting the hands that feed us and in 2011, the Hauraki Gulf Forum's State of the Environment Report found that "most environmental indicators either showing negative trends or remaining at levels which are indicative of poor environmental condition."
But the good news is that, although it will take a very long time to fix up the problems of our past, some of the "bold, sustained and innovative steps" that the 2011 report called for have seen some great success.
Each year since 2011, the multi-stakeholder Hauraki Gulf Forum has brought people together for a seminar that has galvanised ideas, celebrated achievements and sparked many of the collaborative efforts that are starting the long process of turning the tides against environmental destruction.
To name a few of these successes:
• there has been huge progress on reducing seabird deaths by longliners,
• the excellent MAD Marine youth program, which my friend and colleague Camden Howitt has been involved in, is giving one of their young alumni the honour of sharing the stage with some real stars of conservation such as Dame Anne Salmond.
• huge community interest in the re-seeding of the gulf with mussels (which I wrote about recently)
• although I am notoriously sceptical about voluntary measures for the environment (does anyone out there remember when supermarkets voluntarily charged for plastic bags, then abruptly reneged because of the backlash?), I really do have to take my hat off to Rochelle Constantine, who received the inaugural Holdaway Award for her tireless work defending marine mammals in the Hauraki. The voluntary transit protocol she championed has actually reduced the speed of container ships from an average of 14.6 to 10.9 knots, significantly reducing the risk of whale strike.
This year's event, on Tuesday next week - which is sure to sell out if it hasn't already by the time this article goes out - looks very much like it will be the best show that the Forum has put on yet.
If you can't make it to share ideas and celebrate the success of movements towards a cleaner and more sustainable Hauraki Gulf environment, perhaps you can contribute, by answering this question (either in the comment field below, in a casual conversation, or even better, with the kids at the dinner table): 'If ecological abundance and environmental health of the Gulf are desired, then how should we operate?'