It was an early January morning. The cold water lapped at our bare feet as the sun rose on Waiheke's Oneroa Beach.
Hundreds of locals stood in silent solidarity with Ngāti Pāoa as they placed rāhui on the collection of scallops, mussels, crayfish and pāua within one nautical mile of the island.
Waves collapsed into the karakia of the tohunga, human utterance meeting the raw power of the untamed sea we've so egregiously exploited.
One of the things that's always got me about mainstream Pākehā treatment of nature is our pretence that it's disconnected from us. When we talk about climate change, we're accustomed to talking about how we're hurting the planet. When we talk about devastating forests and oceans, we decry the extinction we inflict on the species we share the world with.
We so rarely talk about how any and all of this throws the very ecosystem we rely on, for our own survival, out of sync. The more that we hurt our natural world, the more we hurt ourselves: the air we need to breathe, the food we need to eat, the resources we depend on for life.
Recently I've started toying with my assumptions about sustainability, and where they come from. Western sensibilities say sustainability means having "a light footprint", "as small an impact as possible", and basically figuring out ways to perpetuate stuff that is identifiably harmful by making them slightly less so, or just banning human interaction with those things outright.
That thinking formed the basis of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000. Twenty-one years and several reports later, we've literally documented the degradation unfolding and the constant warnings issued along the way to decision-makers to just do something. Anything.
Since the turn of the century, we haven't increased the 0.3 per cent protected no-take zone. The anchors of "economic" consideration weigh disproportionately heavy in the legislation.
We're a long way off the consensus of international experts, who propose that at least 30 per cent of our oceans need to be protected if we're going to avoid fishery collapse, restore biodiversity, and build ocean resistance to climate change.
Earnestly following science as a Green MP, we campaigned on exactly that this election, as well as immediately phasing out the most harmful commercial fishing practices in the Hauraki.
While Western science says act now, mātauranga Māori has long felt the wairua of Tikapa Moana faces an imbalance. It's an inevitability with short-term focus on extracting as much as possible and ignoring nature's calls for respite from human tampering. Good governance would offer our ocean that reprieve, enabling restoration.
More holistically, Te Ao Māori is grounded in the interdependency of people and the planet we call home, and holds enlightenment light years ahead of the culturally deprived "sustainability" way of thinking I'd been raised with.
In absence of timely parliamentary political leadership, iwi and hapū step up time and time again. We saw it in Te Kawerau ā Maki Waitākere rāhui to stop the spread of kauri dieback. We see it in the few weeks Ngāti Pāoa escalated from discussing intervention to protect the Hauraki's health in the final few weeks of 2020, to the tohunga and kaumātua rolling up their trousers and placing the rāhui in the opening month of 2021.
If we are committed to protecting and restoring the health of our environment, the rest of us need to step up and tautoko iwi and hapū-led solutions like these. What we can do right now, as a matter of immediacy, is submit in support of the Waiheke Rāhui to the Ministry of Primary Industries consultation on the temporary closure.
Systematic overhaul is well overdue. We know that. How do we get there? With steps like these, taken together, over and over again.
Toitū te marae a Tāne-Mahuta, Toitū te marae a Tangaroa, Toitū te tangata.