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Surf Into Summer: Phil McCabe

Surf Into Summer

Phil McCabe


It is both the love of the water and the love of the surf that has caused people to stand up and fight for it.

Surfers locally, nationally and internationally voluntarily take on projects of all sizes, dedicating endless hours and energy to protect the oceans worldwide.

I recently sat down with another one of our own protectors, Phil McCabe, Chair of KASM, Kiwi’s Against Seabed Mining and Head Chief of Solscape Eco Retreat.

Phil moved to Raglan at the beginning of the 90s. Looking for serenity away from Auckland, he settled into a house in the bush. It wasn’t until after he moved in that he discovered his neighbourhood also came with 6-foot peeling lefts, known as Indicators.

He and his partner and fellow surfer, Bernadette Gavin took over Solscape over thirteen years ago, putting in consistent work to make it an educational eco retreat. Providing accommodation, surf lessons, permaculture classes and a flourishing workshop retreat space.

To those that know him, it might seem as if Phil has been an environmental activist all his life, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he really began to dedicate himself to protecting both the water and the land.

One of the names brought up during our conversation was Whaingaroa’s own heroin, Māori land and culture activist, Eva Rickard. Although he wasn’t around during Eva’s movements, he has taken the time to read about what she did for the people of Whaingaroa and those beyond the divvy.

“Because she stood up, because of her example, that was it for me,” Phil said.

This is not the first time her name has been brought up since talking about the surf. In my talks with Malibu Hamilton, I found out that Eva wanted to have a marine science office based at the Kokiri Centre.

By default, a few years later, eCoast and ASR came into the community. Bringing a new breed of people, another level of consciousness.

“Eva, that feels like the beginning,” Phil stated.

And then there are things like Xtreme Zero Waste, Harbour Care, Kai Whenua. Places and people that have built themselves up together, through a permaculture mindset. Looking after what’s here. Looking after what is in good health, and regenerating what is not in good health,” said Phil.

Through Phil’s work with KASM, he has encountered governmental policies and corporations that are pushing hard to do things within the ocean that could be detrimental to its health.

“The people who are pushing those policies don’t actually have a connection to it.

When we’ve gone to these hearings, we express our connection to the ocean, and the importance it has to us. It’s our responsibility. If we don’t tell them, they don’t know that it exists.”

The two biggest threats to our coastline at the moment:

Half a million kilometers of ocean was released for oil exploration last Monday. Allowing international companies to come in and cherry pick the pieces they think look good, to see if they are of any value. Exploration results in things such as seismic surveying. But just because they are surveying doesn’t guarantee that they will drill there. A big part of that is here off of the west coast.

The second major threat, seabed mining.

TTR, Trans-Tasman Resources is in the process of preparing to relaunch the same application that they put in in 2013, which KASM played a big role in stopping.

It would potentially be the first of it’s kind in the world [the mining of seabed iron ore]. Although the application is for South Taranaki, it is our coastline. If it were to get the green light, there could be more applications to come for exploration and exploitation of resources up the coastline.

So how do everyday citizens get involved?

Being informed, using your voice. The Internet is a viable source for information, and there are lots of environmental activists eager to engage with members of the community.

What is your ‘awe’ inspiring moment when it comes to the water? That moment that makes your heart skip a beat, whether it’s a peeling left or watching the moonrise from the shore.

Those are the moments that drive Phil and others alike to work tirelessly to ensure our waves are here for years to come. Find yours, and let it drive you to make a difference.

Karamea Puriri

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