Pictured above: Pro surfer, environmental campaigner and activist, Dave Rastovich is in New Zealand to show his support for "Kiwis Against Seabed Mining" (KASM).
On Friday, 16th November, pro surfer and activist, Dave Rastovich (32, Byron Bay, NSW AUS), will begin a daunting 350km sea-paddle from Cape Taranaki to Piha to draw awareness to the threatened stretch of coast. Rastovich says like-minded surfers and activists will join him on his journey, but if they don't follow him the whole way, he intends to complete the two-week journey solo.
"People the world over come to experience the raw, untouched waters of New Zealand and celebrate a space not yet disturbed by industrial humanity. Yet, if widespread seabed mining reaches the coastal waters of this country, the allure of visiting a once pristine place will disappear," said Rastovich.
"This coast, including Taranaki's jewels, Raglan's points, and Auckland's beaches, are Aotearoa's spiritual centre for surfers. All would be threatened if the sand flow is interrupted and a coastline littered with flawless waves could be irretrievably altered."
"As well, seabed mining will undoubtedly threaten the future of the critically endangered Popoto/Maui's Dolphin. On those grounds alone it should be prohibited," he adds.
Rastovich is no stranger to long hours in the ocean. He is a globally renowned surfer, has participated in similar awareness campaigns in Australia and California, and completed the gruelling Molokai to Oahu inter-island Hawaiian paddle race (considered the world championship of long distance ocean paddling).
Rastovich will now attempt to complete the equivalent of seven Molokai paddles in two weeks.
A coalition has formed between the local group, "Kiwis Against Seabed Mining" (KASM) and the global organisation "Surfers for Cetaceans" (S4C) of which Rastovich is a co-founder.
The activists will be paying homage to the Maui's Dolphin as they glide peacefully through the territory of the endangered mammal.
In addition to various regional community discussions, three major events will be held, marking key milestones of the journey.
The campaign will see Howie Cooke (co-founder of S4C and artist) and the KASM team creating art and information events that provide information about sea bed mining and also the dangers of gill and set net fishing to the dolphins, and agricultural/industrial and domestic runoff that contaminates New Zealand's water ways.
An event schedule is listed below, with all local community members and media encouraged to participate:
Fri 16th Nov - Oakura Beach (paddle begins)
Fri 16th Nov - Fitzroy Beach New Plymouth Surf Club (music, food & info) from 6pm
Sat 17th Nov - Fitzroy Beach (Micro Groms surf event) morning, on the beach
Sat 17th - Fri 23rd paddle, paddle, paddle (meetings and engaging with local communities)
Sat 24th - Raglan Info Event
25th - 30th - paddle, paddle, paddle to South of Piha meetings and engaging with local communities)
Sat 1st Dec - Piha Conclusion "Love Your Ocean Day!" Major day time event. Evening finale event at the Piha Bowls Club
Proposals to mine the West Coast seabed are firmly opposed by a range of business groups and environmental organisations, including SEAFIC (The Seafood Industry Council), Sea Shepherd NZ, Project Jonah, Sustainable Coastlines, Mauis SOS, Greenpeace, WWF, Forest and Bird, and Surfbreak Protection Society.
Leading kiwi individuals including All Blacks star Josh Kronfeld, and ex-Waitakare Mayor Bob Harvey, have also criticised the plans in public, with Kronfeld describing them recently as "a blindside hit".
Surfers for Cetaceans co-founder, Howie Cooke says of the proposed ore mining: "Sucking up seems an appropriate term here, considering that this kind of operation would be significantly offshore owned, with a small financial benefit to New Zealand that in no way could compensate for the massive and extensive damage that would befall fisheries, fish and families.
"The tearing up of the seafloor, the discharge of toxins and the blanketing destruction caused by the tailings would ensure a multitude of major problems being inflicted on both marine diversity and coastal communities for generations to come.
"There are clearly enough fishery, entanglement, oil drilling and pollution issues already; the desperate situation of the Maui's dolphin makes that clear," says Cooke.