No matter what you are trying to conserve, it costs money. Even in the best of economic times finding funding for a project is often difficult, trying to find that funding in a depressed economy is almost impossible. So when global financial markets are in free fall, primary industries are cutting the fat and Joe Public is struggling to pay the bills, where does marine conservation rate in the list of important issues.

If you are the New Zealand government, it seems that marine conservation not only finds itself well down that list but Kate Wilkinson, David Carter and John Key appear to have completely removed it.

Marine conservation and for that matter, the protection of the New Zealand environment in general just doesn’t seem to rate of any importance to the current government. Of course they will claim it does, and offer lengthy reports filled with spin doctored comments and thin splatters of out of context science about the fantastic job they are doing of protecting our clean green image but don’t be fooled, this government has filed our environment in the asset folder and to them it is something to rent, trade, sell and pillage. Exploiting something is far easier than trying to actually protect it, and within that exploitation lies profit. And that’s what this government is all about, money first and everything else second; that includes you by the way – keep that in mind if you are eligible to vote in the 2014 New Zealand general election.

So how important is the environment to Joe Public? Well judging by the poll run by Fairfax Media recently it didn’t rate to high. When there are bills to pay, children to feed, EQC to fight, what’s happening out of sight and with the appearance of having no direct impact on daily life, can pail in significance to the problems that are in front of you on a daily basis. It is hard to look at the big picture when the pixel in front of you seems like a mountain that you have to climb and you are wearing jandels. Problem is, that big picture, when it refers to the environment, does have a direct impact on everyone’s daily life. That impact might not have an immediate influence but one day, it will. If we don’t start making an effort to clean up our act immediately, that impact isn’t going to have a happy ending. Here lies one of the keys (no pun intended) to correcting the mistakes we have been making as a species, public education through scientific fact and common sense balanced with a sprinkle of impending doom if change is not forthcoming. What motivates a government to change its position on something? The voting public.

Looking at current examples we can draw a few conclusions as to the future impact on New Zealand if we continue down this rutted, single lane road to nowhere. Take the Rena, this showed us that our government does not have the capability to deal with an oil spill, even on the smallest of scales. So why are they issuing permits to oil companies to explore off shore opportunities for deep sea drilling? Recipe for disaster, plain and simple. 55 Maui’s dolphins left and despite global condemnation and solid scientific facts our government insist on siding with the weak arguments put forward by the commercial fishing industry and are in complete denial as to why our New Zealand dolphins are on the brink of extinction. Along with this, a number of endangered shark species are still commercially fished here as well as no thought to the impact of shark finning in our waters.

Ask yourself this, why do countries like South Korea and Russia buy quota and send their vessels to our waters? Because there is no fish left in their waters, that’s what happens when you don’t protect your environment. The reason our Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins are in decline is that short term profits are more important to this government than long term sustainability and responsible conservation practices. When all our fish are gone the international vessels will sail off to another country short sighted enough to let them operate and we will be left here with empty oceans and a primary industry in tatters.

Like most Kiwis, I have had an ongoing relationship with the ocean, comes with living on a couple of big islands. I never really thought about that relationship till later in my life, being a male I just took it for granted. When I did, it inspired me to learn more about the impact we as a species have on our planet. All of a sudden I stopped being Joe Public and became something else. I certainly don’t fit the mould of a tree hugging, bearded hippy running around in bare feet trying to save the dandelions but I do feel strongly enough to dedicate time and money to doing my part in an attempt to make a difference. You don’t have to become someone else to start caring about your environment but you can make a difference by taking the time to learn about the impact we are making. We are a part of our environment and therefore what happens to it has an influence on us, now and in the future. No matter what the economic climate, without conservation things will always become a lot worse so it has to hold a high level of importance with governments, industry, the public and you. Educate yourself and start making informed decisions that will secure a healthy future for us all.

Think, Speak, Act – Be the change!