Peter Gibbons


YOB: 1953
Experience: Surf Life Saver
Regions: Otago
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 02 December 2015
Post Date: 08 July 2017; Copyright © 2017 Peter Gibbons and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: What kind of contributions to your knowledge of New Zealand coastal environments has come from Māori culture?

GIBBONS: Well, pretty limited in the South really. I mean, as you’ve probably picked up from your time in New Zealand, it’s significantly different now, going back to the 60’s and 70’s even more so in the South Island to the far north. So very limited Māori input. We’ve had life guards and members of the club who have been Māori, but I haven’t had a significant interaction or exposure or change or thought process or thinking because of involvement with a Māori sector. 

CRAWFORD: With regards to the contribution of science culture and knowledge to your understanding of these marine coastal environments?

GIBBONS: Only through what I’ve read, really. I mean we’re fortunate obviously with the Otago Varsity and the marine aquarium at Portobello. As an interested person, I read lots of articles and go to public meetings, and so on and so forth. We have a good relationship with DOC. As a current example, we have on our patrolled areas Sea Lions, since the population has expanded and they have become more aggressive. But that’s in terms of DOC keeping us up-to-date, and what they would like us to do, and how to deal with problems, and so on. So, more general knowledge and publicly available information than a specific study or involvement. 

CRAWFORD: When did DOC and New Zealand surf life saving start working together? When did that interaction become more active, in terms of what it is now? 

GIBBONS: From my perspective it’s more of a club-based thing. I mean, the local DOC people probably interact with all our clubs, but I don’t go to meetings with all our clubs and meet with DOC and have a round table. It’s more when they’re talking to us, they’re talking to us. And I suspect that they talk to our own clubs, but it’s not something that we really communicate. It’s probably been a growing communication or liaison over the last ten years. But as I say, it’s more specifically around the marine mammals. 

CRAWFORD: I’ve done a little bit of background work, and went specifically looking for a policy at the national level for New Zealand Surf Life Saving regarding sharks. I’ve found something very small, but I didn’t see anything in terms of science education or training programs at a coordinated level. 

GIBBONS: No I don’t think you would see anything. I’m not aware of anything. I mean our philosophy is simply that the sea is the environment of the marine inhabitants - it’s not our environment. So we would cede right of way to them. We don’t want to kill the sharks so that they get out of 'our territory.' We would rather get out of their territory, but we don’t have any formal education around it in either our national lead training or our club based training. Our club has some significant history of shark issues which no doubt you will want to discuss later on but it hasn’t led to, as I’ve said, any specific science training. But as we’ll come into, we don’t believe we have a significant issue in the areas that we utilise anyway. 

CRAWFORD: As a life-long member and active participant in the surf life saving club, what do you know about the ecology of the Otago Peninsula in general? The marine ecology. Do you know anything about that?

GIBBONS: No, not a lot. I mean we know there’s something going wrong because the Penguins aren’t feeding properly, and they’re all dying, which they believe is due to the food chain issue. But again that's from media. We’ve got a girl at the surf club who works at the Penguin colony, but it’s not really an avid area of interest to me, I’ll read anything that’s in the media about it, but I don’t research or know anything.

Copyright © 2017 Peter Gibbons and Steve Crawford