With Paige Hareb’s success on the world stage a once in a lifetime opportunity presented itself to Taranaki, a WCT event at home. Womens surfing has blossomed over recent years and the overwhelming majority of New Zealand’s women surfers are stoked to see a major Womens event come to NZ.
Some in the taranaki surfing community have expressed opposition to the 2010 event. Some locals oppose it citing increased crowds in their breaks as a problem.
Some have questioned the wisdom (including Surfbreak Protection) of the organisers securing sponsorship from the likes of local chemical producer Dow Agrosciences and oil and gas exploration company AWE for a surfing event.
Surfing Taranaki sees it quite differently and points to what they see is a “bigger picture” in their coastal management aims. Surfbreak put the following questions to Craig Williamson, CEO of Surfing Taranaki so they could express their reasons.
1. How did the Taranaki idea of hosting a Womens WCT event come about?
This ‘one in a lifetime’ opportunity has come about because of Paige Hareb’s success, breaking into the exclusive Top 17 in the world. We are riding on her coat-tails and the momentum that she has established. Paige has put Taranaki on the map and the possibility of hosting a leg of the Dream Tour has arisen because of this. Taranaki, and the overwhelming majority of NZ women surfers, are extremely excited about getting behind Paige and hosting the other girls right here in our own back yard.
2. There has been blogging done from an element of the locals negative attitude re protection of breaks. What does ST say to this?
Everyone has a right to have their say and express their own opinions, and some long standing issues have been brought to light as a result of the discussions we’ve been having recently. Surfing Taranaki will now be even more focused on actively working alongside the district councils and the regional council to improve the infrastructure and amenities on the coast. This will hopefully result in better managing, and help spread the regular summer influx of visiting and traveling surfers in the future.
3. A couple of the sponsors, namely Dow AgroSciences and AWE, have raised a few eyebrows and generated some negative comment from within the surfing community (including Surfbreak Protection). What is the nature of your relationship with such companies and why did they become involved?
AWE are only a very minor sponsor, but were thrilled with the concept and were happy to contribute a little bit of seed money right at the start. Following their 23,000 litre oil spill AWE realised that they could not operate 40 kilometres off the coast and not take responsibility for the environment. To their credit they put far more effort into the clean-up than was legally required; not that the Government was interested anyway; and they now want to demonstrate their commitment to the coastal arena. Since Dow AgroSciences (DAS) took over full ownership of Ivor Watkins Dow in the early 1990’s they have made strenuous efforts to right the wrongs of yesteryear. The most significant is the installation of ground-water monitoring wells at both their Paratutu site and their test farm at Omata. The results from the monitoring wells have been closely followed by some of the more active people in the surfing community and for the last 11 years have shown the ground water to be clear of contamination. It was at one of the annual public reporting sessions that ST approached DAS and suggested that it was time they put something tangible back into the surfing community. A request that has obviously been embraced.
4. How do they treat coastal protection and water quality issues? See above for DAS. Our members who work for AWE and related industries report that AWE has made substantial changes to both the infrastructure on board the floating production station at Tui, and also the manner in which the process is monitored to ensure that the likelihood of any spill is lessened and if it should occur then the TRC is notified immediately, not three days later as was the case for the last spill.
It is obvious that Surfing Taranaki and local Surfbreak Protection committee members work increasingly more closely with large companies and local/regional authorities that can impact our surfing quality and local authorities.
This is a model that appears to be paying dividends with the likes of recent results we have previously posted on this website. Unfortunately there is a large amount of apathy with surfing towards the surfing environment. Surfbreak Protection Society commends ST for their ongoing efforts and successes in coastal protection in the Taranaki region.