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Whangārei return: Spirit of NZ setting new environmental standards

Maioha Panapa

Whangārei return: Spirit of NZ setting new environmental standards

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

An iconic New Zealand sailing ship is back in Whangārei for an upgrade that will set an environmental example.

Te Waka Herenga Tangata o Aotearoa [the Spirit of NZ] has been visiting Whangārei for 10 years for repair, maintenance and upgrades.

The current visit is to install a modern treatment plant aboard the 42.5-metre three-masted barquentine that turns sewage into clean water.

The ship’s owner, Spirit of Adventure Trust, believes it will set an example for other vessels in how they treat not just sewage, but the ocean.

The trust’s CEO Bruce Pilbrow hopes people will think twice about disposing of waste.

“You should be thinking about what you throw into the ocean, because it all has an impact.

“In our oceans, in the Hauraki Gulf in particular, we’re not healthy at all.

“It’s because we’re over-fishing, dredging, dumping plastics or sewage, and we need to stop doing that.”

The Te Waka Herenga Tangata o Aotearoa’s new sewage treatment plant turns wastewater into clean water using UV filtration pumps.

Pilbrows says the treatment plant will show people sailing in enclosed harbours, like Whangārei, there is a better way to take care of the ocean.

“There’s a treatment process that goes through and cleans the sewage.

“When we dump it [wastewater] from the ship, it will basically be clean water.

“The reason we’re doing that is we’re trying to a) lead by example, and b) to show young people if you really want to look after the species in our oceans, you actually have to make the effort and go that extra mile.”

(From left): Heron Ship Repair engineers Christian Edwards and Barry Tavinor, along with Spirit of Adventure Trust CEO Bruce Pilbrow, look at one of the new UV pumps about to be installed aboard the Spirit of NZ. Photo / Tania Whyte

Te Waka Herenga Tangata o Aotearoa came to Whangārei after a 10-day voyage with 40 students aboard.

Pilbrow says the 40 students from diverse backgrounds are experiencing how to create a community while learning to sail on the ocean.

“We are a youth development organisation, first and foremost.

“This beautiful thing happens with 40 young people creating this diverse community.

“All those things society puts around you - are you rich? Are you poor? Are you Māori? Are you Christian? All those things go out the window because you’re young people coming together and building a community.”

Te Waka Herenga o Aotearoa will be in Whangārei until September 14, when it begins the voyage back to Auckland with another 40 rangatahi [young people].

Heron Ship Repair Ltd is installing the new plant.

The Spirit of Adventure Trust and Heron Ship Repair have a 10-year relationship.

Heron Ship Repair general manager Spencer Brown said the business supports the work the trust is doing.

“I think what Bruce is doing is playing a significant part in the Hauraki Gulf’s health.

“We are massive advocates for that work and are very proud to be helping them with that.”

Hero image: Spirit of Adventure Trust CEO Bruce Pilbrow alongside the Te Waka Herenga Tangata o Aotearoa (the Spirit of NZ) on the hard dock at Heron Ship Repair. Photo / Tania Whyte

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