January saw local communities welcome members of Conservation International’s Hawaii and Bali teams along with the founders of Save The Waves and Indonesia Locally Managed Marine Areas to Morotai to take the further steps in developing the Surf Protected Area Network for the island’s East and North Coasts. A global concept, Morotai is the first place to see the model trialled. In addition Matt Yamashita from Quazifilms Media and Mickey Pauole from Molokai joined the team to document the trip and further research a theory that Molokai’s ancestors originated from Morotai. There were a lot of exciting and original elements in the mix.
The local communities had been anticipating the team’s arrival and they were welcomed in the warm, open, gentle and understanding spirit that emanates from Morotai locals, something foreigners immediately sense and enjoy. It is a very precious and fragile aspect of these ingenuous people and part of what makes visiting Morotai so magical. It needs to be recognised and respected so that it is not lost as development begins in earnest.
The week saw the team and local communities discuss realities, hopes and challenges while also adventuring around the island, surfing, dancing, generally hanging out and developing trust and understanding on both sides. The locals were proud to welcome a team interested in their current situation, eager to have the opportunity to play their part as their island undergoes change.
Local government meetings with the Tourism Department, Promotion Department and Planning Department enabled a collaborative action plan to be drawn up with involved parties clear on their roles. Local community members Romi and Hernan also attended to voice their visions and concerns regarding the development of their communities and island for tourism purposes.
Upon culmination the locals felt a sense of friendship towards the visiting team members and voiced their approval for a concept that they will help design.
Development, change, culture-clashes, tourism bring many questions, challenges and opportunities. Addressing these together, sharing knowledge and with local communities leading the way, we hope to develop a model that creates sustainable community development and resource management that is relatable, accessible and originates from the heart. Where there is passion, there is hope and the capacity for long term benefit.