Lake Ferry’s Reuben Tipoki will be aboard Te Matau a Maui, which is setting out on a voyage to trawl plastic from Napier to Chatham Islands. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

HAYLEY GASTMEIER

hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

Lake Ferry’s own Reuben Raihania Tipoki will be joining the voyage of New Zealand’s first-ever ocean plastic trawl next week.

Nets will be dragged through the sea off the waka ‘Te Matau a Maui’, which will sail from Napier via Wellington to the Chatham Islands with 16 crew on board.

The micro-plastics that are collected during the journey will be analysed and will broaden the understanding of how Aotearoa waters link into the bigger picture.

“It’s about collecting data really, because there’s been no data collected from within our waters around our country thus far.

“It’s about starting to form a picture about what’s happening here and how our waters feed into the South Pacific Gyre, which is where all the plastic ends up accumulating.”

The gyre is one of five on earth, and contains an area known as the South Pacific garbage patch.

While in New York at the United Nation’s Ocean Conference last year, Mr Tipoki and Maori plastic pollution activist Tina Ngata met the founders of California-based The 5 Gyres Institute, which is leading the world in research on ocean plastic pollution.

The American researchers are currently in New Zealand on the road in the North Island with The Pure Tour 2018, which Nga Hapu Kaitiaki o Wairarapa is bringing to the region.

As part of the tour, a 30-minute documentary called ‘Smog of the Sea’ will be shown at the Carterton Events Centre on February 18 at 4pm.

The film features 5 Gyres Institute’s Marcus Erikson, who embarks on a one-week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea studying plastic pollution with and all-star crew including surfer and musician Jack Johnson and surfers Keith and Dan Malloy.

This would be followed by an expert panel discussion.

“And hopefully we come up with some local solutions to this issue.”

While Mr Tipoki is sailing down the East Coast, an educational talk will be held at Makoura College and a beach survey will be carried out at Castlepoint.

This will involve sand being put under a microscope to examine what content of plastic is on the beach.

Two researchers will be onboard the waka and sail from Napier to Wellington, where the crew will attend the Pacific Climate Change Conference on February 21-23.

From Wellington, the waka will collect plastic as it sails over to the Chatham Islands, where there is concerns that marine pollution is affecting the albatross colony.

Mr Tipoki said there were other countries which were lightyears ahead of New Zealand when it came to banning single-use plastics.

It was about stopping the pollution at the cause, so “then there’s no need to clean anything up”.

The tour and sailing was to draw attention to the issue, and hopefully businesses like supermarkets, and the Government would take notice.

Nga Hapu Kaitiaki o Wairarapa are a locally-based conservation group committed to kaitiakitanga, or environmental issues of the region.

Waka ‘Te Matau a Maui’ belongs to Te Matau a Maui Voyaging Trust.

Last year, alongside Greenpeace, it hit the seas in opposition to the world’s largest seismic survey ship, the Amazon Warrior, which was testing off the Wairarapa Coast.