Te Whānau-a-Apanui celebration: Tchau Petrobras!


The NgāTM (Ngā Toka Tu Moana) Festival was a week of celebration, sharing, planning and action for the planet in Te Whānau-a-Apanui on the East Coast of Aotearoa and brought together activists from across the country.

Te Whānau-a-Apanui territory stretches from Hawai all the way to Whangaparaoa, through the Raukumara ranges and out to sea. The iwi's isolation has led them to retain virtually all their land. The tribe is made up of 13 hapu, 11 of which are organised in Te Runanga o te Whānau. When the government issued a prospecting permit to Brazilian oil-giant Petrobras, it was clear that the iwi wasn't going to have a bar of it. With the support of Greenpeace, Forest and Bird and other environmental organisations, a flotilla was launched during seismic survey activity in 2011 and Te Whānau-a-Apanui actively got in the way to protect their taonga. Tribal leader Rikirangi Gage told the company: “We won’t be moving. We’ll be doing some fishing.” The whole coast is covered in anti-drilling messages.

In December 2012 Petrobras announced they are pulling out and relinquished its permit, which covers an area of 12,330 square kilometres, reaching water depths of over 1000 metres.

This second edition of the NgāTM festival was therefore a celebration of a massive victory. Only days before the festival, Canadian oil giant Apache announced that they are also pulling out of their joint East Coast on-shore permits held with TAG Oil.

There were a lot of happy faces when Greenpeace flagship – the Rainbow Warrior III – pulled into Whangaparaoa on 16th January. They were welcomed onto the marae where fisherman Elvis Teddy, who was arrested during the campaign against the seismic survey, gave everyone a hongi.

The proceedings moved to Te Whānau-a-Kaiaio in Te Kaha the next day where festival participants stayed over the next three nights. After an evening of whakawhanaungatanga, it was clear that many iwi, groups and communities were represented.

Friday morning started with a climb of the nearest mountain to get a good view of the hapu's territory. Hapu rep Matetu Herewini explained that the hapu owns around 97% of the land in their area. “The only land that is not in tribal ownership is a public works depot – and there is a Waitangi Tribunal claim on that and we'll get it back – and the road that runs through our rohe.”

The hapu controls a sheep and cattle station, has kiwi-fruit orchards, maize paddocks, community gardens, horses and ample space for housing. They also fish in the sea and go hunting in the bush. The gardens are maintained by some of the kaumatua. The area is well-known for growing kumara.

Matetu explained that during the seismic survey, each hapu lit fires along the coast to show that the home-fires are burning and the iwi is opposed to the drilling. It was obvious that it might well be an impossible task to find someone on this coast who supports the drilling.

During the day, workshops and discussions were held at Te Whānau-a-Apanui area school in Te Kaha. The discussions focused on how to build our movement against the extractive industries, but also on climate change and solutions to our fossil-fuel dependency. While there was unanimous agreement that we are opposed to deep-sea drilling and fracking and the need to stop burning fossil-fuels, there was disagreement around the way forward. Greenpeace researcher Simon Boxer put forward the argument that it is a matter of urgency to move towards a clean economy to reduce our emissions drastically right now or face irreparable damage to the world's ecosystems. His conclusion was that New Zealand was an ideal place for biofuels to replace petrol and diesel. Greenpeace advocated for biofuels and other 'cleantech' solutions in its Energy Report in 2007. Climate justice activists at the hui pointed out the shortfall of not addressing the root cause of climate change. It was suggested that Greenpeace's approach only shifts power from one set of capitalists to another set of capitalists and that increasing energy demands will put us in exactly the same spot with biofuels (who are expected to create less emissions) in a couple of decades. So rather than the 'plaster-approach', radical and systemic change is required.

Similar discussions were held the following day during the presentation of a biofuel company from Gisborne. John Fisher, of Pukeawa Biofuel, manufactures and imports biofuel. He recycles fish'n'chip oil and is developing capacity to make oil out of dairy-shed effluent by using algae.

One evening, two car-loads of wananga participants went to the Raukokore river to show support for hapu members who had set up a blockade to stop shingle extraction from the riverbed. Spokesperson Dave explained that he did not agree with the extraction and they told the trucks to turn around. There were discussions how inspiring the 'Idle No More' movement in Canada has been and the need to support each other's struggles.

A po-whakangahau at the marae on Saturday saw the Taranaki team win an impromptu 'Homai Te Pakipaki' competition. The Waikato strip-show nor Ngati Porou's strip-show copy-cat did not convince the judges :-) Sunday's 'celebrity breakfast' was excellent with the haukainga showcasing their amazing hospitality. The fact that no celebrities were able to come didn't bother anyone. Instead everyone was declared a celebrity.

Sunday's concert in the scorching heat at Te Kaha was attended by over 1000 people. Local bands opened up for groups like 1814, Majic Paora with House of Shem, Mihirangi and Ardijah. The shared sense of victory and determination to keep fighting any oil companies who want to step foot into Te Whānau-a-Apanui was shared by all concert-goers and reaffirmed by the various artists on stage. “When I say 'No', you say 'Drilling' – 'No' 'Drilling'!”

Tenei te mihi aroha ki te haukainga o Te Whānau-a-Kaiaio, ki nga kaiwhakahaere o Ngā Toka Tu Moana, ki a koutou katoa o Te Whānau-a-Apanui!


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He mihi nui ki ngā toa o Te Whānau a Apanui. Pai rawa ō koutou mahi. Kia kaha koutou.

"Greenpeace's approach only shifts power from one set of capitalists to another set of capitalists and that increasing energy demands will put us in exactly the same spot with biofuels (who are expected to create less emissions) in a couple of decades. So rather than the 'plaster-approach', radical and systemic change is required."

As the Soviets discovered, no change can be "radical and systemic" if the economic base is still fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources, and extractive technology. But applying "business-as-usual" models to "sustainable" solutions will still take extractive forms, like biofuels based on ethanol from pesticide-soaked monoculture corn farming. What we need is to develop community-scale solutions, which integrate renewable energy sources and regenerative technology (eg polycultures farming, fruiting hedges), developed and managed by cooperative networks of democratic communities and workplaces. From the description of Te Kaha above, it sounds like tangata whenua are leading the way in more ways than one.

Okay... who wrote this? The Ngati Porou Strip Show was by far the superior performance on Saturday night!

ki a koe e te whanaunga Nessa, i think you are right, the Ngati Strip show was pretty awesome, and that other guy's, ummmmmmm, whats his name??????LOL, you were all winners,

I think the major thing I got out of the hui was the fact that the time frame we've all been working to around tipping points for climate chaos, is that scientists now reckon we may only have ten years max to stop us going over the edge. I can therefore understand Greenpeace's 'urgent action' call so if we want a better solution we need to get busy, NOW.

Totally agree Em. There is an urgency about this that I've never felt before. Lets brainstorm and get some flaxroots action going (although I know you have started already, but I feel like a little isolated here in conservative Tga). Would love to see everyone again so I can re-enforce my learning, and work on action plans which will result in the outcomes we so desperately need.

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