In 2021 we got used to campaigning on the climate and biodiversity crises while living through a global pandemic. But it wasn’t the same. We didn’t do a lot of real-world actions because of all the lockdowns and other Covid restrictions. 

But necessity is the mother of invention. We invented a new campaign concept – mail-in water testing for nitrate contamination. When we could no longer hold testing events in community halls due to the pandemic, we provided people with the option of a free mail-in water testing. Rural people around the country drinking from private bores sent us hundreds of samples. We bought the testing equipment, hired the right technical staff, and Greenpeace Aotearoa now has the biggest data set in the country of nitrates in private bore drinking water. 

And it’s not a happy story. People are getting cancer from their private bores in clean green Aotearoa – contaminated by industrial agribusiness. Dairy corporations and lobby groups claim to speak for rural New Zealanders, but they speak for money. Ordinary rural New Zealanders get the poisoned well while Fonterra gets the million dollar bonuses. One thing we have demonstrated is that what is bad for freshwater biodiversity is bad for people too – which is not a surprise because we are part of nature, not separate from it.

There are lots of great farmers showing how to do it well, and we celebrated the stories of organic regenerative agriculture. They show that you don’t need to drown the soil in urea and Round Up. The National Iwi Chairs Forum came out in support of a phase out of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. How we grow our food needs a revolution on planet earth. Greenpeace is doing the heavy lifting to show the problem and the solution, in spite of relentless opposition by the status quo.

Off the land and on the oceans, we had a big Supreme Court win against seabed mining, alongside iwi and other environment groups. The battle through the courts against seabed mining took years but it is now pretty difficult for them to dig up the seafloor. The endemic blue whales living in the South Taranaki basin are safe, for a while at least. 

But beyond the boundary of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, across the Pacific, the campaign against seabed mining is really only starting. In 2021 we opened a front against an industry that is yet to exist – industrial seabed mining in the Pacific. We want to stop it before it starts.

Industrial fishing however is an industry which has existed for some decades and the practice of bottom trawling was a particular focus throughout the year. Corals older than Jesus are being destroyed on seamounts across the Pacific by New Zealand fishing companies – hidden far out to sea and far under the waves. Greenpeace activists took action against Talleys in Nelson and we produced all the evidence to show what’s really going on. We haven’t stopped it yet but we will. We did however get the Government to agree to stop fish dumping and put cameras on most fishing boats which were wins.

Our plastics work made small gains too. We have been laying the groundwork of ideas we need for systemic change from a throwaway economy to a circular economy, our petition to ban single-use plastic drink bottles now has over 100,000 signatures, but we still have miles to go.

None of this would have been possible without our supporters. Greenpeace doesn’t take money from government or business which gives us the independence to uncompromisingly tell the truth, and to fight for what is needed rather than what is palatable. It was gratifying that in 2021 we grew the number of regular donors to Greenpeace Aotearoa.  

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