Amidst the challenges ahead of us as our communities recover from Cyclone Gabrielle, there are sources of hope in the Hauraki Gulf – Tīkapa Moana Te Moananui-ā-Toi, and lessons to learn from nature. From the 4th to the 12th of March, communities across the country are celebrating Seaweek. This is your invite to join in, get a dose of ocean optimism, connect with your local waters and you’ll discover a whole community that also cares about it.
Nature provides invaluable benefit
When we get caught up with all that’s happening around us, focused on doing our jobs, protecting the environment, and looking after the people we care about, we can easily forget to spend time immersed in nature. However, for our well-being, it’s quite important for us to spend time in the outdoors and appreciate nature for what it is – simply amazing.
When things get stressful, spending time being present in nature is one of the first things that tends to get overlooked in order to focus on the tasks at hand. It’s not helpful though, cutting out the time we might typically spend recreating or relaxing outdoors can lead to feeling more overwhelmed by all the environmental challenges we face – and I know this feeling all too well.
Why we need to make time to reconnect
Many factors can contribute to us feeling less connected to the Gulf; we feel disheartened seeing the destruction from the storms, the plastic washed into the environment after intense rain, in addition to erosion and slips everywhere contributing to an influx of sediment washing into the Gulf. Concerns about the overfishing of our favourite species, expanding kina barrens, and worries about sedimentation smothering marine life are front of mind, and these anxieties are mirrored by many others. You may also be feeling disconnected if you’ve not been able to swim where you typically would without taking a health risk – there have been several areas where swimming was not advised for a long time following recent weather events.
On top of this, all we hear in the news are reminders that our ecosystem is under pressure and we are not doing enough to preserve it. We read articles about the continuation of destructive fishing practices, record-breaking marine heatwaves, the spread of invasive species, etc. and these are creating the impression that there isn’t much we can do. While awareness of these issues is critical, news stories perpetuate worry about the relentless degradation of our surroundings. As we go through our daily lives, it can be hard to see that its not a hopeless situation. There are amazing good news stories that have yet to be told about the regeneration and restoration happening in the Gulf and there are opportunities for us to speak up and influence change if we seek those out. While we chip away at our challenges, I think we still need to find time to positively connect with nature around us.
Spending time near the sea gives me moments of peace, the strength I need to stay grounded, and the benefits of being by the water are simply invaluable. Sometimes we do just need take a step back and reconnect with the environment, by being present in a place we know and love. After all, connecting with nature is shown to reduce fatigue and worry. This is why I thought this might be a suitable place to introduce you to Seaweek – the national celebration of the sea.
How to join the celebration of the sea
For the past 30 years in early March, the sea has been featured at the forefront of events nationwide and celebrated through shared experiences and community action projects. This year, from Saturday, 4 March to Sunday, 12 March Seaweek will showcase and promote a wide range of activities and opportunities. It’s the perfect time to let the ocean feature in more of our conversations and raise awareness about our impact on the marine environment. It’s time to celebrate the incredible actions which are being taken to make positive impacts on the ocean and it’s a great time to pledge to do more.
One reason I love Seaweek events so much is that it brings me closer to other people who also really care about the sea. Connecting with people that share the same concerns and passion for our environment is inspiring. I reckon there is a special energy created at beach cleans when we come together to pick up rubbish as opposed to trying to do it all on our own. Perhaps it is that surrounding ourselves with others makes it feel more possible that we can make a difference – because we can if we work together.
The ocean provides the solace that we all need to stay inspired, and the benefits of being in it are invaluable so we hope you find an activity that interests you. Let Seaweek serve as a reminder to reflect on your connection with the sea and spend a little time near, on, or in the water, learn about our marine ecosystems, connect with others, and make mindful actions that contribute to a healthier gulf. Take the challenge during Seaweek and elevate your knowledge of the marine ecosystem and what you know about how we should be caring for it.
Get a little insight to what Seaweek is all about and visit seaweek.org.nz/whats-on the to see if there will be events happening near you. Or check out our ideas on how you can get involved and engage with Seaweek even if you aren’t able to attend official events.