The gates of Mordor


    I doubt if any of us will easily forget the images out of Ukraine these last three weeks. It may be, as one local journalist said, one of the most barbaric wars in human history, scenes out of Mordor.

    Three weeks ago, Kharkiv was a beautiful, desirable and historic city thriving in the 21st century. Now its apartment blocks are smoking ruins, either mutilated or totally gone; the zoo, the fairground, a magnificent central square piles of rubble.

    We’ve seen the citizen population driven underground or out into the hideous firepower of a global superpower going rogue around hospitals, schools, refugee lines and nuclear plants because a country it wants to make a vassal state had the temerity to elect its own incorruptible president.

    Of course, peaceful citizens at the mercy of well-armed and disciplined militias aren’t new. The number of refugees driven out of their ancient homelands in Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Myanmar – and the West’s crushing indifference – has been an indictment of the current world order.

    Millenia of human diversity as rich and precise in its own landscape as any earth species so lovingly described by legendary naturalist David Attenborough has been wiped off the face of the earth. To suit the brutal whims of greedy and careless men, leaving tangles of untouchable privilege and corruption nested inside sequestered wealth not usually exposed to view.

    It’s been a while since we took an intelligent look at ourselves and the response to Ukraine’s crisis has been salutary. The US also has a history of meddling in other people’s elections for strategic reasons and Germany and Britain’s financial sell-out to Russian gas and oligarch capital has been shocking. Under this pressure of an unprovoked and reckless war contravening Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, the world order is not coming out well but small gestures are surprisingly effective.

    Born in Malta, I wrote numerous school projects for my Devonport primary school teachers about that rocky, sun-baked island the size of Waiheke. Strategically placed in the Mediterranean, Malta’s 8000 years of human civilisations was brutally bombed flat in the Second World war but ultimately held out through four years of siege.

    As it’s Hospitaler Knights of St John of Jerusalem had done four hundred years earlier with reciprocal brutality when Europe was threatened by the Ottoman Empire. The stability they won put the fortified island at the centre of a golden two centuries of arts and architecture in Europe.

    The siege of Ukraine and the astonishing resilience of a civilian population fighting for its right to exist at a point in history when something had to give may yet achieve such epic proportions.

    So with the world of global capital showing signs of de-lamination, the seriously good news this week is the massive show of public support for a proposed new 2350ha no-take marine reserve in the coastal waters north of Mātiatia and Owhanake – the first new marine reserve in the Hauraki Gulf in 20 years.

    More than 1000 submissions lodged by the general public, yacht clubs and relevant organisations, a large percentage of them from island residents, supported the establishment of the Waiheke-led Hākaimangō-Mātiatia Marine Reserve. Ninety submitters objected to the initiative and 23 were in “partial support”.

    A delighted Friends of the Hauraki Gulf chair Mike Lee said they had always been convinced most New Zealanders supported marine reserves, as they do parks and nature reserves on land. “Still we are blown away at the sheer scale of support. This is way more emphatic; this is a landslide.”

    Alas, hard on its heels and proving rust never sleeps, comes a private plan change to expand a contentious 300ha fin fish farm for raising kingfish off the coast of Coromandel to 410ha (See comment page 27).

    It is being sought from the Waikato Regional Coastal Plan and was publicly notified for public comment on 4 March.

    Finfish farms pose well-documented threats to the marine environment, all of which were catalogued by opposing submitters to the earlier (and presumably successful) application for the original 300ha consent.

    They include dead zones on the seabed from introduced food, faeces and medicines from introduced fish stocks and entanglement issues for dolphins as well as loss of amenity and navigational hazards.

    It closes on 4 April and is among the tsunami of public consultations that have deluged Aucklanders over the summer after two years of Covid disruption and behind-closed doors city council workshops that will determine our future on everything from regional parks, unitary plans and every small local park to Firth of Thames dredging.

    If we want, ultimately, to be successful taking action on the huge stuff, it’s probably a good idea if communities practise resolution in the small stuff. And there might be a lot of that before this global adjustment is over. • Liz Waters

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