Wade Doak – New Zealand’s Underwater Knight

Sad to hear of the passing today of New Zealand marine conservation legend Wade Doak. Wade was a real inspiration to me – his relentless passion, commitment and advocacy for the marine environment was infectious. Recipient of the Queens Service Medal for marine conservation,  in the early days he and Kelly Tarlton and others went spearfishing and treasure hunting – the stories of them collecting gold sovereigns from the Elignamite shipwreck at the Three Kings Islands are part of New Zealand folklore.

Wade Doak – New Zealand’s Underwater Knight. Left: Kelly Tarlton and Wade Doak – the pioneers of New Zealand underwater adventure.

Later came his advocacy for protected areas – the Poor Knights – that magical ecosystem close to Wade’s home on the Tutukaka coast. And it worked – the Poor Knights is now one of the underwater wonders of the world. I had the privilege of working there with Wade and Jan’s son Brady, both New Zealand underwater champions, whilst filming Our Big Blue Backyard.

There were books – Wade was a prolific author – his stories of the underwater world and adventures around the Pacific – the Auckland Islands – the interactions he recorded with sea creatures – with whales and dolphins – were such good material for a kid who loves the sea. They showed what was possible – and with no fear.

Recently there was Wade’s writing in respect of kina barrens and the ecosystem being out of balance with too much pressure on the crayfish fishery in Northland. And his ongoing advocacy with his friend and peer, the late Roger Grace – another champion, for appropriate management of the Hapuka fishery – their traditional knowledge and advocacy on this species will inspire change. The knowledge of the underwater world he had was incredible.

Wade was an incredibly positive online presence in my life – his posts on social media were always informative and interesting and with a good environmental message. For me, he was up there with Jacque Cousteau, Steve Irwin, and Peter Blake – a real conservation hero – New Zealand’s Underwater Knight. We emailed on marine issues and interacted regularly on social media – but you know what – I never had the pleasure of meeting him face to face. If I did, I would have given him a big hug and said thank you. You are a hero.

A mighty totara has fallen. Rest in Peace and love to Jan, Brady and the family.

Mr Environment and Adventure

Proud of the recent article in the chic and venerable Junction Magazine, the local magazine of my home town Matakana, Northland, New Zealand. Growing up in the Matakana, Warkworth and Rodney District with the wonderful community and beautiful coastline really shaped me and developed my passion for marine conservation.

You can read the full article at Junction Magazine by clicking here.

Excerpts of the article below:

Mr Environment and Adventure

Winston Cowie, son of Matakana locals Mike and Sue Cowie, grew up at Campbells Beach, Tawharanui Peninsula, before embarking on a successful career in environmental policy, film, writing, rugby and adventure that has taken him to over 40 countries. He currently works as the Marine Policy Manager at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, where he is settled with his wife, Lucy, and four children.

It was during his upbringing in the Kawau Bay region that his love for the environment really developed – sailing and fishing on the Kawau Bay side of Tawharanui and surfing at Anchor Bay and at Pakiri and Mangawhai further up the coast. Winston completed a law degree from Otago University, before being awarded a law scholarship to work at New Zealand law firm Russell McVeagh. Wanting to have a positive impact on society and the environment, Winston applied and was awarded academic and sporting scholarships to complete an MSc in Environmental Policy at Oxford University. 

He has spent the past ten years in the Middle East where he works as the Marine Policy Manager at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. To give this context, his portfolio covers a marine area nearly half the size of the North Island, a population of 9.7 million people interacting with it and covers the sustainable use, environmental management and conservation of fisheries, protected areas, endangered species and habitats, biodiversity, eco-tourism, climate change, and development of the aquaculture sector.

But life isn’t all high level meetings with Ministers and the like, he still gets to do grass roots conservation  – this involves tackling gently Green Turtles which weighs 100kg and putting satellite tags on them.

Winston is considered a thought leader in the international environmental policy and climate change field where he has been awarded two Al Dana Pearl awards by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan of Abu Dhabi for his contributions to the Emirate, and more widely his work won ‘best sustainability communication’s campaign’ in the Middle East Region earlier this year. He was the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi Ambassador on the world record single use plastic free flight between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane on Earth Day this year. “I am able to have a positive impact on the environment and people both in the Middle East region and globally. And this is really what I am about – energizing positive outcomes for people and the environment.”

His innovative approach of using film in marine policy and to drive environmental outcomes and behavioural change has won international acclaim. In 2018, he was chosen as an Ambassador of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and environmental champion Dr Jane Goodall to complete the Sir Robert Swan Leadership and Climate Change Course on the International Antarctic Expedition. Sir Robert Swan was the first person to walk to both the north and south poles. From 90 international leaders in government, private practice and entrepreneurship from 20 countries, Winston was awarded the supreme Sir Robert Swan Leadership Award for his contributions to the expedition, notably for his use of solar energy to deliver a message of unity, hope and action to the world in solar lights from Antarctica. 

The film that Winston directed and co-presented on the Antarctic expedition – ‘Zayed’s Antarctic Lights’ won a World Medal at the prestigious New York Festivals TV and Film awards. 

Winston’s interest in film goes back to his time in New Zealand where his first documentary – Mystery at Midge Bay – premiered at Matakana Cinema. He also worked as the Dive Supervisor on the New Zealand underwater series ‘Our Big Blue Backyard’ with locals Brady Doak, Dave Abbott and Steve Hathaway, finding a Maori taonga whilst underwater at Tawharanui which he gifted back to local Maori. It was found under the same reef he had grown up surfing on.

Liking to keep busy, over the course of his journey, Winston has authored two New Zealand history books. The first is a historical fiction set during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness’. It has been praised by the descendants of the Maori and Pakeha heroes he wrote about. His second book entitled Conquistador Puzzle Trail proposes that the Portuguese and Spanish were the first Europeans to discover New Zealand. After sparking a national debate, it has been added to the encyclopedia of New Zealand as the key source on this subject, translated into Spanish, and with the support of the Spanish Embassy in New Zealand over 300 copies were sent to all secondary schools and universities in New Zealand.

In addition to leading a good will charity rugby mission to Seychelles and Madagascar, which screened on World Rugby TV, Winston represented the UAE Rugby National Team at the World Cup Qualifiers in 2017. The team is ranked 62nd in the world and he is one of the Mahurangi region’s most recent rugby internationals.

http://www.instagram.com/winston_cowie

 

Edwin Grandcourt. Poetic Tribute.

Edwin Grandcourt

Of the sea

 

Way out deep in the Indian Ocean

At dawn on a new day

A set of waves feathers on the horizon

One wave taller than them all

 

As the set approaches a palm tree laden island

The wave grows and grows

Tall and majestic

It crashes upon the sandy shore

 

A seed springs up

In the tropical island forest

A young sapling unfolding its branches

Supple, slender, handsome and strong

Reaching up and out

Towards the sunlight

Growing young and sturdy

About to set sail

And challenge itself in the world

 

From this island archipelago

A bird flies

A seabird of course

To the isles of the north

The birth place of that swell

 

It explores far and wide

Further north and then south, east and west

Seeing lands of red earth

Islands with crocodiles and old shipwrecks

Green fields

Great whales

Blue skies and rain

Never far from the sea

 

At the southernmost tip of Africa

The Cape of Good Hope

The wind changes

A tap on the wing

Destiny calls

An adventure awaits

 

The wind blew from south to north

And the bird flew

Crossing an ocean and a mountain range

To the land of the golden sands

To the wake of the dhow

 

The bird dives in to that bountiful sea

The Arabian Gulf it was called

A dolphin swims past

Glistening and glowing and growing

Shining brightly in the golden sun

Mighty and quivering with energy

Larger than life

That dolphin

 

Swimming from east to west and west to east

Gliding gently above the dugong and turtles

Studiously looking at all the fish

But always driving and diving forward

Growing and glowing

Smiling

Happy and Laughing

Living a dolphin’s dream

Content

 

The Kingfish and the Queenfish

Of the Coco de Mer

Their home was always near the coast

And being from the sea

Their young grew up amongst the mangroves

Al Gurm.

They then moved on to the coral reef

And as they waited to grow strong enough

To brave the currents of the sea

The Kingfish heard a call

A message in a shell

 

It was time for this star

This light so bright

That had flickered so brilliantly for a moment

To take its place in the night sky

Where it would forever burn bright

 

Way out wide in the Indian Ocean

At dawn on a new day

A set of waves once again feathers on the horizon

There is not one but two waves growing

Heading towards that sandy beach.

 

Edwin our dear friend.

Of the sea.

And of the Seychelles, England and the UAE.

When we look around us.

We know where you will be.

 

With love.

Your friends.