Well over 500 people were in attendance at this year’s Maui’s Dolphin day with the Kopua Domain bustling with people, giveaways, live music and a wonderful assortment of rafts.

Fifteen rafts went head to head in what turned out to be another tough competition with a variety of prizes up for grabs. Last year’s winner Sean Oliver was once again the first to cross the finish line reclaiming his title for another year.

The day wasn’t just about who was fastest however, with Whatawhata School entry ‘The Shoguns’ scooping the big prize for best raft sponsored by Ray White Real Estate.

Celebrity guest judge and pro-surfer, Dave Rastovitch was impressed by their message of “You Drill, You Kill “ and the effort that had clearly gone into creating the raft to highlight the local issue of seabed mining.

However he said, “it was a really tough choice with so many great entries”. Runners up were Fonterra and KASM, both of which were close seconds for ‘Best Raft’. ‘Best Junior’ went to Naumai Kereopa Lloyd racing on a Raglan Bill creation, closely followed by Jo and Corina Tweedie.

As for the most number of people on one raft, well that was no contest, Waitetuna Schools’ raft was a clear winner with 21 students crammed onto one raft and finishing an impressive 5th place on such a big and weighty raft.

The afternoon programme included local musicians: Karin Bettley, Ashley Knox, Marten Ten Broek, and Lucy Cioffi as Little Lapin as well as more speakers and giveaways.
Maryann Tuao and Karin Bettley were the winners for the water conservation competition. Mason Swann won our kid’s water tip competition, with his creative water tip published in this week’s Chronicle.

Throughout the day, marine enthusiast Peggy Oki collected hundreds of photos of people posing with DOC’s life-sized Maui’s Dolphin for the “Let’s Face It’ visual petition. Meanwhile, the kiddies enjoyed coloring in their own visual petitions over in the kid’s art tent.

The Sustainable Coastlines Education Station — a converted shipping container – provided a central hub for organisations to engage with people from the community and showcase educational material and films.

Twenty-five volunteers from the local community were also involved with the coastal clean-up, including a large group from Hamilton based law firm James and Wells Intellectual Property.

The clean-up was based in Ruapuke, and in an hour and a half the team managed to remove over 250 litres of rubbish from the coastline.

The day ended beautifully with an evening screening of ‘Minds in the Water’, featuring pro surfer Dave Rastovich. Sustainable Coastlines provided a screen in their converted shipping container Education Station, while Tractor FM provided speakers.

Ironically, the day after the Maui’s Dolphin Day was held, Waikato Times feature writer Tracey Cooper had an extraordinary encounter with four Maui Dolphins about a kilometre offshore of Whale Bay.

Maui’s Dolphin expert and associate professor Liz Slooten of Otago University, said most Maui’s dolphin sightings occurred between Manukau Harbour and Port Waikato and described the run-in as a “really lucky” event.

Only this Tuesday, the Department of Conservation (DOC) announced that the number of Maui’s dolphins over the age of one has reached a historical low of between 48-69 individuals, with a most likely point estimate of 55.

The sightings and released figures served to remind us that if not protected, we may not be encountering any more Maui’s Dolphins in our harbours.

To follow-up on the actions around Maui’s Dolphins, check out www.whaingaroa.org.nz and join the newsletter or stop into to WEC to become a member.