One of the many wonderful characteristics of New Zealanders is their love for the planet. They treat the earth we live on as a beautiful being with a soul all of her own. I first noticed it overhearing a knowledgeable conversation about the weather and the physics behind its effect on the ocean's swell. All this went on between two sun kissed teenagers in board shorts as they stared out at the waves, discussing the potential for surfing over the coming days.
A few days ago the container ship Rena struck the Astrolabe reef a few kilometres off our coast. If you walk to the end of our road and look out at the ocean you can see the ship. Hundreds of tonnes of toxic oil have been pouring from the ship killing animals and coating our beautiful, beautiful, precious beach. Watching the devastation unfurl is so awful. Knowing how New Zealanders feel about the earth it is heartbreaking to see the effect this is having on them. Locals are on the beach all day scooping oil into bags, desperate to do whatever they can to help. The oil is sticking on boots and being traipsed all over pavements, through shops and houses. The nauseating oily fumes have permeated our whole town and its impossible not to well up with tears when you go to the beach and see the black smear stretch for miles. In the last few hours a large crack has appeared down the side of the ship as it lists in the stormy weather. Containers have fallen into the ocean. One leaves a trail of chemicals in its wake as its potentially hazardous contents react with the water. It looks like the ship may break in two. This horrifying environmental nightmare is just beginning and its effect will be with us for years.
That love and respect this spiritual nation have for their country will stand them in good staid. They know how to look after nature and I know they will nurse our little corner of the world back to health with strength and tenderness.