Healthy Ocean Act - Marama Davidson Speech

He mōhio ō tātou tīpuna ki te tirotiro taiao.

I mātakitaki rātou i ngā huringa o te marama, o te rā, o ngā whetū me ō rātou hononga ki te moana.  

I whakapaipaingia ake e rātou ēnei māramatanga i ngā marama, i ngā tau, i ngā rautau me te āta tuku iho.

***

Toitū te marae a Tāne-Mahuta, toitū te marae a Tangaroa, toitū te tangata. If the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive. 

I grew up on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour, in the far north Taitokerau.

My connection to our harbour has been maintained across the eons of whakapapa from our ancestor Kupe to my own little mokopuna Raeya.

When we took her to the Hokianga Heads for the very first time, she displayed the most un-Ngāpuhi trait because she was scared of her feet touching the sand. 

We all said this is a blessing from her Indian whakapapa. 

In my own childhood the moana is just a constant - with all of my hapū being coastal. 

Golden sands, getting dumped in massive waves, gathering kai moana, a place to play, a place to wag school at, a place to learn about our taiao, a place to care for, a place that cares for us. Home. Ko au te moana, ko te moana ko au.

From childhood and to this day, I am endlessly fascinated by how enormous and blue the moana is. How impressive and mysterious. 

But I was also brought up to look beyond the magic of the deep rolling waves; down to the sand and the shells - and the little creatures that made their home in the shallows.

I have an urge to connect with the ocean's edge whenever I am near one. 

Relishing in those magical moana moments and a power both calming and exhilarating.

The journey Kupe made is the thread that runs through my whānau story here in Aotearoa. It is the foundation of my deep connection and aroha for the ocean. 

***

My people have a kaitiaki duty to safeguard the Hokianga, a responsibility we have held for hundreds of years.

I have dipped the toes of my newborn babies and mokopuna into the moana as a way to connect them to their own ancestral seas. 

As kids, I can remember wading through water in all seasons with all the cuzzies to gather kaimoana for our marae hui. 

Whatever it was - birthday celebrations, weddings that had been months in planning, or tangi to farewell our hapū descendants - there would always be a kaimoana expedition to make sure we had enough to feed everyone.

There’s nothing like all the kids in the Whirinaki valley being rounded up to go and collect kaimoana from our harbour.

Once, my aunty showed us how to literally suck oysters straight off the rocks. 

We all thought that was gangsta! 

The harbour has fed my whānau and our valley for generations. 

But that has all changed. 

In just one generation I have seen our harbour struggle under the immense pressure of pollution, sediment, overfishing, and climate change.

It breaks my heart that my mokopuna may never experience the thriving life of these waters in the way my nana did. 

I know from travelling around the country that every hapū with a connection to the moana has noticed similar changes in their rohe.

Sea sponges, penguins, shellfish, snapper and other fish species are dying off in vast numbers. 

Here in Auckland, late last year, fishers reported catches of milky, mushy, starving snapper in the Hauraki Gulf. 

And right now, parts of the Gulf are being suffocated by an invasive seaweed that smothers everything in its path.

These changes are a signal of what is happening in our ocean - and every single one of them should serve as a wake-up call.

***

Nowhere on earth is more powerful and unknown - and yet so beautiful and endlessly fascinating than the moana, than our oceans. 

Scientists say they have more accurate maps of the surfaces of Mars, Venus and Mercury than they do of the deep, blue sea.

Despite its mystery, the ocean touches every single one of us. 

It is home to more than half of all life on earth. From tiny graceful seahorses, to darting fish, to precious tuna and tohorā. 

More than 71 percent of the planet is connected by the currents and migrating animals of the ocean. 

And every inch of it sustains us. 

People often talk about how forests are the lungs of the planet, but the ocean also plays a huge role in our breathing.

Every second breath we take, comes from the ocean. 

More than three billion people around the world rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, including thousands here in Aotearoa.

The ocean is also the world’s largest carbon sink; home to hidden underwater forests and incredible little creatures that absorb carbon dioxide from seawater and the atmosphere. 

Without a healthy ocean, we are without our whakapapa, we cannot have a healthy planet.

It is as simple as that.

We cannot have healthy communities, with food to eat, and clean air to breathe. 

We cannot tackle climate change. 

We cannot preserve our invaluable cultural connections to the sea.

The ocean is our life support system.

When that system starts to break down, it will affect every one of us.  

Keeping the ocean healthy is crucial to climate action - the defining challenge of our generation. 

Ka ora te Moana, ka ora tātau. When the ocean is healthy, we are healthy - and our humanity survives. Because the ocean deserves protecting in its own right, for its own splendour.

***

Our ancient kōrero, “Ki uta ki tai – from the mountains to the sea” reminds us that ocean health is connected to whenua health. 

But that connection is breaking. 

Successive governments have enabled pillaging and destruction of the moana. 

They have treated the marine environment as a resource to be exploited. 

They have pursued short-term goals without seeing the bigger picture.

Pollution, plastics, the plunder of corporate overfishing, invasive pests, and mining has degraded the natural mauri of the ocean.  

Species have been pushed to the brink.

Once thriving ecosystems are disappearing. 

Fish and other marine mammals are making one-way migrations to keep cool and move away from warmer waters.

Ancient species like leatherback turtles which have been around since dinosaurs roamed the land are facing pressures that could push them to the brink. 

Politics and policy is often made out to be a lot more complicated than it is.

The question is simply whether we want to protect our precious ecosystems, or whether we put our head in the sand and ignore the growing crisis.  

The answer is pretty bloody simple: he taonga te moana, the ocean is taonga – and it should always be treated as such. 

***

When the Green Party went into government for the first time six years ago, we immediately got started on what would quickly become the largest government programme of work to cut climate emissions this country has ever seen.

Thanks to the work of James Shaw and the Green Party, Aotearoa now has a single legal framework that will require every government, now and in the future, to take action to cut climate emissions. 

A key part of the Zero Carbon Act James led was the creation of an independent Climate Change Commission that would ensure all future Governments receive the best possible independent, science-based advice on what needs to be done to tackle the climate crisis. 

That advice led, last year, to the country’s first, comprehensive, all-of-government Emissions Reduction Plan. A blueprint for a zero-carbon Aotearoa that we have never had before. 

Over the last six years, the Green Party has taken more action on climate change than all previous governments before us. 

The time is now to do the same for the ocean. 

And so today, I am delighted to announce that if you elect the Green Party into a strong position in the next government, we will get started immediately on the most significant programme of work to protect the ocean that Aotearoa has ever seen. 

***

A key part of this is a commitment to protect at least 30 percent of the ocean that surrounds Aotearoa by 2030. 

The Green Party will pass a Healthy Ocean Act to create a legally binding commitment to establish and maintain an Aotearoa-wide network of ocean sanctuaries, free from harmful human activity. 

These marine protected areas will be co-designed with iwi and hapū - and mātauranga Māori will play a central role in how they are managed.

Māori fishing will also be prioritised next to protected areas to guarantee the tino rangatiratanga over our moana and resources that we were promised more than 180 years ago. 

In the past, when governments have attempted to protect the ocean, they have neglected Tiriti justice and failed to uphold tino rangatiratanga, which is essential for underpinning decisions about the moana.

The Green Party’s unwavering commitment to ensuring ecosystems can thrive is matched by our unwavering commitment to the sovereignty of hapū across the motu. 

We will weave these kaupapa together in a new framework for marine protection.

The time is now for a government that will whakamana te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

The time is now for a government that will uphold tino rangatiratanga.

The time is now for a government that will guarantee the wellbeing of tangata whenua and tangata moana.

***

To begin this, the Green Party will create a new, politically independent Ocean Commission in the first 100 days of the next government. 

Just like the Climate Change Commission has held the government’s feet to the fire on what needs to be done to meet our climate targets, the Ocean Commission will provide independent, science-based advice on what needs to be done to protect the ocean. 

For decades, successive governments have failed to acknowledge how every part of the ocean is connected. 

Governments have made decisions based on impacts on a single species, sector, activity or concern, rather than considering the mauri of the whole moana. 

Political parties have put in place more than 20 laws that apply to the ocean - and yet this piecemeal approach has seen the health of the ocean decline for decades. 

Aotearoa urgently needs a better approach to protecting and managing the ocean that works for everyone.  

One of the first jobs of the new Ocean Commission will be to develop a comprehensive, all of government Ocean Strategy to deliver ecosystem-based management of the ocean. 

This will ensure a joined-up approach to meeting the 2030 protection target that reflects and supports the way ecosystems actually function, and the risks they face.  

***

From climate change to ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution, our ocean is under threat like never before. 

If we don’t act now and address the problems of our oceans with the seriousness they demand, we are in trouble. 

Action to protect the ocean simply cannot wait. 

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, former Green Party co-leader Jeannette Fitzsimons called on the government to protect at least 20% of the ocean. 

What progress have Labour and National made?

Less than one half of one percent. It is pitiful. 

There is not a single marine protected area in the deep, open ocean that Aotearoa is responsible for.

The crisis facing our ocean is growing more urgent by the day. 

In the two decades since Jeanette pressured the then Labour government, the big two political parties have failed at nearly every opportunity to prioritise the health of the ocean.

Time and time again they have made the political choice to put short-term corporate profit ahead of what’s right for people and nature.  

In failing our seas, they failed Aotearoa. We simply cannot risk any more delay. 

The major parties have been mostly indifferent to the plight of our precious moana - and that must stop. 

Right now. 

It will not be acceptable to the millions of people who are demanding bolder action; nor to the Green Party; nor to me… If the next government fails to muster the courage and moral clarity necessary to restore the health of the ocean with the urgency it demands.

***

There is no doubt in my mind that the only way to make this happen is with a Green Party Minister of Oceans and Fisheries.

Over the last six years more action has been taken on conservation, waste, and climate change than ever before thanks to the work of Green Party Ministers.  

However, without a Green Party Minister responsible for the ocean and fisheries, progress has been far too slow.  

Over the last few weeks, we have been very clear that political leaders do not get to decide what will and won’t happen after the election. 

That is your job. You create the mandate for bold political action.

But if you want a government that will take bold action to address the challenges we face, then the only option is a vote for the Green Party.

More Green MPs means more Green Ministers in Cabinet, influencing the direction of the next government.

What I want to be clear about with our announcement today is that one of those ministers must be a Green Party Minister for Oceans and Fisheries. 

That is the only way we will confront the ocean crisis with the urgency it demands and restore its mauri for the good of everyone. 

Not only will the Green Party Minister create a new, politically independent Ocean Commission to advise the government on solutions that work for people and nature. 

Not only will our Minister put in place a binding target to protect at least 30% of the ocean surrounding Aotearoa so we can restore its mauri.

Not only will our Minister take action to protect our waters from invasive pest species by investing in improved marine biosecurity.   

A Green Party Minister for Oceans and Fisheries will also put an immediate stop to bottom trawling on seamounts. 

When massive fishing corporations drag huge weighted nets across delicate ecosystems, like seamounts, they destroy everything in their path.

Slow growing corals and sponges, that have provided a habitat for a diverse range of ocean creatures, are ripped to shreds.

It is estimated that this senseless bulldozing of the ocean floor also releases as much carbon dioxide as global air travel, every single year. 

On top of which, these habitat-damaging activities produce such large sediment plumes they literally choke filter-feeders, like mussels. 

One commercial trawl can create a plume the size of the Goat Island marine reserve - smothering all it touches.

A few weeks ago the Labour Government finally said it would consider a serious rollback of bottom trawling over substantial areas of the Hauraki Gulf.

This is a welcome step but let me be absolutely clear: bottom trawling has to stop on seamounts everywhere, and it has to stop in the entire Gulf.  

Allowing destructive dredging and bottom-trawling to continue will simply undermine any wider effort to protect the oceans. 

***

For decades, politicians have made excuses for why we cannot do things at the pace and scale we need to solve the connected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and intergenerational poverty. 

They have repeatedly denied their own ability to fix major problems.

They tell us their hands are tied. 

They say only little steps are possible.

Rubbish. 

Where’s the imagination? 

Where’s the vision, the courage to stand up and say “we will do better”?

I’ll tell you where it is. 

It is in the Green Party’s Income Guarantee that will give everyone peace of mind that they can always afford the weekly shop, pay the rent, or cover unexpected costs – even when times are tough.

It is in our plan for free dental care for ALL, not just some. People over 30 need good teeth too!

It is in our promise to clear the housing wait list in the next five years and guarantee everyone a warm, safe and affordable place to live. 

***

This election is a chance to create the world we want our mokopuna to inherit. 

Bold political action can change the world for the better. But to do that, we must not ignore or downplay the challenges we face.

Like the tens of thousands of people across Aotearoa who are struggling to make ends meet.

Like the collapse of native plants and animals.

Like the climate crisis that is turbo-charging flooding and extreme weather in places like Auckland, Tairawhiti and Hawke’s Bay, the crisis facing our ocean will not wait for decades of incremental progress.

It is happening right now. And it needs action right now

The time is now for a government that will show the political leadership necessary to put ocean health ahead of corporate profit.

And to put the Green Party in charge of making it happen. 

Ko tēnei te wā.

***

In 34 days time we will have one of the most significant elections we have ever had in Aotearoa.

I wish all parties were committed to creating a world where people and nature can thrive. I wish our political debates could focus on what matters now AND for future generations. 

But National and ACT aren’t even trying to bring serious solutions for the big issues we face. 

Together, they would be the most damaging Government that Aotearoa has had for decades. 

We cannot let that happen. 

What we are announcing today is a clear, robust and enforceable plan that will protect the ocean and the benefits it provides for all.

It is a clear blueprint for a future of ocean justice. A future of ocean health. A future of ocean abundance. 

Imagine taking your kids down to the beach, paddling among the gentle waves and seeing the dark, silky shapes of fish darting back and forth through the water.

Imagine wading out to the rocks, running your hands over them and finding enough kaimoana to feed your whānau. 

Imagine strolling along the waterfront on a lunch break and being lucky enough to glimpse a whale breaching, spinning, and flicking its tail through the water - exactly as we saw in Wellington a few years ago.

We can have all this and more. 

It is all possible with the right political decisions. 

And so, to the thousands of parents and grandparents who remember stories of an ocean full of fish, dolphins, whales, and healthy underwater forests – and want the same for their own children.

To the volunteers, community groups, and tangata moana who have spent years advocating for the protection and better care of the sea.

To the tens of thousands of people who depend on a healthy ocean for their livelihoods. 

To the coastal hapū for whom the stories are all that remain of the abundant kaimoana their ancestors relied on for their sustenance, and traditions. 

A vote for the Green Party is a vote to restore the health of the ocean. 

***

We are at a unique moment. 

Never before have we understood so clearly the consequences of what we are doing to the planet. 

And never before have we had such an incredible opportunity to finally elect a government that will do something about it. 

To preserve the ocean environments we all depend on, and carry treasured species and habitats into the future.

We do not have time to delay. We need to do this now. 

The ocean’s power of regeneration is remarkable - if we just offer it the chance. 

We can restore the health of the ocean within a generation. 

The choice lies with us.

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei.

Our decisions are for the generation today, the generation tomorrow and the generations yet to come.

The time is now for a government that will show the political leadership necessary to put ocean health ahead of corporate profit. 

Ko tēnei te wā, the time is now to put the Green Party in charge of making   

Nō reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Latest Oceans & Fisheries Announcements

Story

Marine Protection Bill encouraging, but more work required

The Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill is an encouraging example of what cross-party co-operation can achieve.
Read More

Story

The Time is Now for Oceans Protection

Community organisations, mana whenua and the Greens have written to the incoming Minister of Oceans and Fisheries to call for the progression witho...
Read More

Story

Greens launch petition to save oil and gas ban

The Green Party has launched a petition to save the ban on oil and gas exploration.
Read More

Story

Go and vote for our future

Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw are today wrapping up a campaign that has sought to inspire hope, rather than fear, and that ...
Read More

Story

Greens welcome new marine reserves for South East Otago

The Green Party is today welcoming the Government’s announcement that there will be six new marine reserves on the South East Otago coast.
Read More

Story

Greens will demand Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to lead ocean rescue plan

The Green Party will protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, create an independent Ocean Commission to advise the government, and put a Green Minister fo...
Read More