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* Letter to the editor of the Greymouth Star & the Hokitika Guardian written by Hēmi Te Rākau 03/02/2020

"We all come from the same beginnings, the sea... 

We are ocean creatures, water dwellers and aquatic beings."

Under the heading, 'We Come From The Sea', I would like to bring to public attention a factor in the human/ environmental relationship which I know will be of interest to readers. We are all the navigators and travelers in our personal histories and life-stories regardless of ethnic, cultural, political, personal, or familial associations with this planet we know as Earth and it’s place in the cosmos. In spite of all the differences and similarities bestowed upon us by religion, culture, politics, whakapapa or kawa, to name but a few, we share one indisputable connection with each other as homo sapiens, humans, children of the universe, no matter what “label” we travel under in our lives. We all come from the same beginnings, the sea. We are ocean creatures, water dwellers and aquatic beings. After conception and until birth, our environment is liquid and life-supporting in every aspect of our development and survival. Some, if not all of us, whilst in the womb of our mothers, have gills enabling us to breathe and swim in that aquatic environment. With these basic life-giving facts in mind, I am absolutely aghast by the actions of both the Westland District Council and West Coast Regional Council through their respective councilors and staff, to approve the discharge of “treated” effluent, via a pipeline from the Westland Dairy Company into the sea at Houhou, north of Hokitika! We come from the sea! We absorb everything we need for growth and development from the waters of our mothers up until the time of birth into the terrestrial world. The waters break and we are on our way to be who we may become in the world. The waters of our mothers’ wombs become toxic after birth and are discharged to the land. We take a gulp and breathe air, the gills are no longer required. However, we still have our origins in the aquatic, we come from the sea! The sea was the highway of our Old People, our Tüpuna, who reached these islands from across those seas. The food they and we eat came and still comes from the sea, therefore we come from the sea.

I read that there is talk of using a diffuser to ensure the toxic discharge is more easily dispersed into the ocean (we come from the sea). However, logic would suggest that the contaminants are the same whether large or small by composition with each other, so the effects on the receiving waters will be the same. The smaller size of the particle would create a feel-good factor in the minds of the perpetrators as you won’t see it, unlike globules of waste and fats! Readers may have heard of a document called the Treaty of Waitangi which enshrined in its words the intent that the practices and expectation of the indigenous peoples of these islands prior to European colonisation would be protected from debasement or harm by the Crown. Both Regional and District Councils have made very public their collective and individual responsibilities under the terms of the Treaty. Yet both elected organisations have given their official, legal, authorised support for this factory to discharge toxic wastes to the sea, one of the many taonga protected under The Treaty by Law and Lore! Readers may be interested to know that there is another legal historical document still in force today, dating from July 1839, named He Whakaputanga known as (Declaration of Independence) signed between the indigenous peoples and the King of England. It may help people understand the indigenous relationships in Te Tai Ao (the world). Armed now with the knowledge that we come from the sea as water-originated beings, the decisions of Westland Dairy Company and respective councillors within elected Councils have decided that 800 metres off-shore the pipeline will discharge contamination into the ocean.

3 nights ago from my home at Awatuna over-looking the ocean, I saw the Greymouth fishing boats trawling their nets about half a mile offshore for the local traders and restauranteurs.  Half a mile/800 metres not much difference in the scale of things really!

Enjoy your fish and chips whilst you can because the pipeline is not into the sea yet pumping the “treated” waste into the fishery! If you remember nothing else keep only these thoughts for your future “we come from the sea” prior to our birth.


Hëmi Te Räkau,



All photographs were taken by Fog & Moon Studio, in Hokitika in November 2019, facing the ocean where the pipeline will now be placed.
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