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Jacqui O'Reilly

Into the River - Te Awa Kairangi (2022)

sound, video, 3:00 min


The Te Awa Kairangi / Hutt River flows for 56 kilometres through the southern region of the North Island of Aoteoroa New Zealand. The roar of this river was the first sound Jacqui O'Reilly heard every morning, the last sound every night, throughout her growing up. This sonic impact continues to shape her interests in the power of deep listening and the more-the-human world. 


Prior to 1855 the Te Awa Kairangi river was a major arterial route for Māori in the lower and upper valley and mountainous pass of this southern region. The river was a significant freshwater fishery, with species such as pātiki (flounder), kanae (mullet), piharau (lamprey), kōkopu (giant and banded bully fish), īnanga (whitebait), ngaore (smelt), and long-finned tuna (eel).


This river, along with over half of all rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand, is now suffering the impacts of pollution with from toxic algae, due to the impact of the dairy industry and its rapid growth of mass production over the last thirty years. New Zealand now supplies over a third of the global market’s dairy products. 


Māori in the North and South Islands have begun legal proceedings against the Crown regarding the degradation of fresh water systems, including an unprecedented High Court challenge. These proceedings seek recognition for Māori of Rangatiratanga, or Chieftainship, over freshwater. This legal action is an urgent attempt to restore custodian care for land and its precious fresh water systems. It is one small example of how the global ecological crises impacts ways of life for all.

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