The Pasifika Collective
Introducing a non-profit organisation that aims to connect Pacific Island culture to the superyacht sector…
The Pacific is a really big place, and home to an equally diverse range of nations and cultures. Superyachts that visit here, bring with them the resources, knowledge and capability to have a significant positive impact on the region. It is encouraging to say that the field of philanthropic yacht support in the Pacific is, if not competitive, certainly a mature collection of like-minded charities and non-profit organisations. One of the newest is The Pasifika Collective. I sat down with the founder, Mark Donaldson, and general manager Isla McKechnie, in central Auckland, for a fascinating insight into connecting superyachts and affecting change in the region.
The Pasifika Collective is a non-profit organisation that has been founded on the idea of recognising the diversity of cultures and associated range of issues in the region. In doing so, connecting the Pacific superyacht & marine industries to specialised projects that address each. Donaldson is of Samoan (Village of Lepea) and European descent. His strong Polynesian heritage and formative years spent in the Cook Islands, Samoa and New Zealand, as well as his time at sea as crew in the superyacht industry, has helped guide the formation of the Pasifika Collective.
“We know that a lot of yachts visiting the Pacific are not just coming here for the cruising. Increasingly they are looking for cultural experiences, and we want to make sure that they are having real cultural interactions, and that both parties are positively impacted.” Says McKechnie
The 2022 Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai volcanic eruption and tsunami is one of the most recent large-scale disasters in the South Pacific that required significant aid and foreign assistance. As a relatively new organisation, this was the first relief effort the Pasifika Collective was involved in. Working with yachts such as Como and Sea Eagle 2, and a range of local superyacht industry companies, The Pasifika Collective along with NGOs on the ground in Tonga, sent a shipment of aid to the worst-affected islands of Mango, Atata, Nomuka, Fonoifua.
Along with aid shipments, one of the most interesting projects that the Pasifika Collective is undertaking is focused on water safety training in the Pacific Islands, in this case, Samoa. The Pasifika Collective’s ambassador in Samoa, Ulugia Su’a Jay Ah Fook Schuster, had highlighted the fact that water safety is a significant issue for the island nation. A clear example given was that much of the fishing in Samoa and the Pacific is focused inside the reef, not necessarily because that is where the most fish are, but because the fisherman do not have the equipment, or training to safely fish the open water.
Ulugia Su’a Jay Ah Fook Schuster, Samoa Pasifika Collective Somoa ambassador (left) Mark Donaldson, Pasifika Collective founder (right)
This has the secondary effect of placing disproportionate pressure on the inshore fisheries, leading to overfishing, and the same fisherman being forced to fish more dangerous water, despite the risk. By starting training programs for local communities, the layered benefits of such a program are evident and may have a generational benefit. Projects such as this, and the way in which it hopes to tackle a broader community issue, can provide a longer-term solution that the superyacht and marine sectors can be a part of.
As anyone that has been through MCA accredited officer's training can attest, one of the most fascinating and futile parts of the course is the celestial navigation module. Unless you are part of a bridge team that actively keeps the tradition alive, most graduates see the skill fade. Personally, I loved the course, mostly because it is so steeped in maritime history. Much like the pioneering navigators of the British empire, to whom the MCA course is indebted, the Pacific has its own legacy of navigation in the Polynesian navigators.
“We are working with the Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation, led by Peia Patai and Cecile Marten, who identified that the younger generation that has lived overseas is returning to the Cook Islands with little knowledge of their culture. They would like to build a school that teaches traditional navigation techniques, that also incorporates modern training techniques up to an STCW level. We want to provide a pathway to employment, in either the commercial or the superyacht sector, that otherwise would not be open to them, with a course that recognises the Pacific cultural heritage.” Says Donaldson.
This co-training program between the Cook Islands and New Zealand has land set aside for a building complex in Aitutaki. The road to STCW accreditation is long, but a rewarding and aspirational teaching program such as this is a great example of the integration of the cultural memory of the Pacific, and the training of the officers that will roam the region.
It is early days for the team at the Pasifika Collective, Donaldson, along with General manager Isla McKechnie, are building their network of ambassadors across the region, and inviting partners to join their many initiatives. For any yachts considering venturing into the Pacific, there are some fantastic projects, such as those the Pasifika Collective is undertaking, that can help build a positive yachting legacy across the diverse nations that comprise the region.
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