Piha, New Zealand (Saturday, Dec 1st, 2012) – Professional surfer and environmental activist, David “Rasta” Rastovich, (32, Byron Bay, NSW, AUS) has successfully completed a two-week, 350km paddle up the West Coast of New Zealand, a campaign designed to draw awareness to the seabed mining proposed for the region.
Rastovich, a founder of the global group “Surfers for Cetaceans”, began the paddle at Cape Egmont, south of New Plymouth on November 16 and today stepped foot onto the sands of Piha, north of Auckland, greeted by hundreds of supporters and representatives of the locally formed group “Kiwis Against Seabed Mining” (KASM).
Currently, the entire west coast of New Zealand, from Wanganui to Cape Reinga, is under either a prospecting or exploration permit for iron sand. Rastovich and KASM members claim that the mining will devastate marine eco systems, alter world renowned surf breaks and completely wipe out species such as the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin.
Further, it is claimed there will be next to no financial return for the people of New Zealand with very few jobs created and 95% or more of profits going overseas.
“Seabed mining is something that will change this place forever. With so much at stake and with so many unknowns, it’s a risk I don’t think any New Zealanders should be willing to take,” said Rastovich.
“It’s not too late,” he urged. “There is so much compassion in this community and in all the communities and groups we engaged with during our journey. All we need to do is harness that passion and we can protect this incredible coastline from the dangers of iron ore mining.”
On Thursday, during the 40km plus paddle leg from Port Waikato to Whatipu near the entrance to Auckland’s harbour, Rastovich was escorted by the very animal he is attempting to save – a pod of Maui’s dolphins swam alongside him for around 45 minutes as he navigated his 17-ft custom made board through treacherous seas.
“Just to the south side of the Manakau inlet, I had a visit by about eight Maui’s,” explained Rastovich.
“They caught swells with me and escorted me to the very start of the inlet in really dangerous conditions. They really gave me the confidence to navigate that bar because there’s some heavy water in that area, some of the heaviest water I’ve ever encountered.”
Rastovich is no stranger to long hours in the water, having completed similar campaigns in Australia and Hawaii, as well as being recognised as one of the world’s great surfers. However, it is no surprise he found the West Coast paddle challenging.
“There’s been moments when it didn’t feel like the ocean was going to allow me back to shore. In New Zealand, the ocean is a particularly special place. A place we should respect – this water, this sand, these people and the animals we share it with,” said Rastovich.
Ex-Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey, has also criticised the plans in public. Today he said this battle to preserve the west coast marine environment is of greater importance than the battle he lead to protect the Waitakere ranges.
“Be prepared for a long battle; it has only just begun,” he said.
Josh Kronfeld, All Blacks football legend, was among the many supporters on the beach.
“The whole mining thing does not make any sense to me. We rely on the coast and the marine life as it is. To devastate resources that we are already using and then go and destroy that as well? Crazy. We don’t know exactly how much damage we’re going to do. And for such a minuscule return? It just doesn’t make sense,” said Kronfeld.
People interested in lending their voice or learning more about the issues are urged to vist www.kasm.org.nz
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.