Music 4 Mauis


Kia ora, Nau mai haere mai

Welcome to Kaitiaki Our Dolphins blog, the heart of Music 4 Mauis.

Please be patient as the official Music 4 Mauis site is under development, we hope to enable music downloads for you soon : ) lots of exciting stuff coming up! podcasts, videos, celebrity interviews…...

Meanwhile this is a place where you can learn more about our dolphin species, the threats they face in our waters and how you can help them out. The special focus is on the critically endangered Maui dolphins or Popotu, with less then 100 left today.

More on Music 4 Mauis:

Music 4 Mauis is an exciting venture that unites a love for NZ music with caring for our native dolphins. It was started by Gemma McGrath in October 2007. With Maui dolphins on the brink of extinction, numbering round just 100, something had to be done fast. They are Aotearoa’s most endangered species and they are found nowhere else in the world besides here. Their numbers have dwindled so low, extinction has become a real possibility. This is mainly due to recreational and commercial set netting and trawling in our inshore shallow waters –

Maui and Hector habitat.

Maui’s are cousins to the Hector’s dolphins and look very alike, just their genes differ. They never move far from their local stretches of coast and never go beyond 100m deep. They are the worlds smallest marine dolphin and as unique to Aotearoa as our Kiwi. Ancient wisdom connects their wellbeing to ours. They are our kaitiaki, and we are theirs. Now they need us more than ever.

Over summer, Gemma embarked on a nationwide tour in the dolphin van, setting up dolphin awareness stalls at prominent music festivals. She has united conservation groups on this issue into major sponsors including Care for the Wild, WWF and WDCS (The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society). Thousands of petition postcards were filled out by people all over the nation. Since then she has been working hard to get the first Music 4 Mauis album out, while studying for her Masters in Science for Communication at the University of Otago.

The NZ Government has just taken a major step forward towards effective protection of our endemic dolphins. However the new protection measures for Hector’s and Maui’s do little more than hold the population at its current seriously depleted level (25% of original population size). The new regulations do not meet national or international guidelines for marine mammal conversation. But they’re a great start. We will begin to see regeneration of our coastal ecosystems with increasing fish stocks, birds, etc and hopefully more dolphin sightings in time!

Designed to raise national awareness and deepen our connection to these dolphins, the Music 4 Maui’s project hopes to inspire effective political change and strengthen our nation’s conservation ethic. As the issue can be controversial in fishing circles, and hence the media, music is a dynamic medium that gets the message across to many. Fisherman can always find alternatives, but extinction is forever.

The first NZ music compilation, featuring artists from publishers Native Tongue was released on June 16th 2008 by Rhythm Method nationwide. Our musicians are all so willing to help out the dolphins and whales, there are several more albums planned. This project hopes to eliminate apathy and foster empathy fusing the power of music with the latest scientific facts. It helps promote the artists, conservation groups and most importantly the dolphins. The CD booklet features a fold-out map of NZ with the best population estimates available for Hector’s and Maui dolphins. The drop in population size from 1970 to today is frightening. You can see which other local populations or iwi are in just as critical condition as the Maui’s, like Kaikoura and Te Waewae Bay.

Recently Gemma’s friend, artist Jono More featured on Campbell Live with his dolphin stencils. Many dolphin stencils were done on trips in the dolphin van over summer, and they have been noticed. The feedback has been so great; we now have legal commissions all over NZ. An upcoming winter tour in the dolphin van is planned, to do more dolphin graffiti art, and promote the album. The beautiful poem, featured in the CD is also credit to this special artist.

Proceeds and donations generated from the project will go to the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust to conduct much needed Maui, Hector and now Common dolphin population surveys around NZ.

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20 May 2008

Interview with Gemma McGrath, Music4Mauis Campaign Director

How do donations get to the dolphins?
Music 4 Mauis is a project run by Gemma McGrath fusing her love for NZ music with marine conservation. Endorsed and mentored by Professor Liz Slooten, together they have united with conservation groups WWF, Care for the Wild and The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society on this issue and brought about powerful industry changes. Liz Slooten is one of the worlds’ top dolphin scientists and is a founding director of the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust. This established trust has been instrumental in getting Music 4 Mauis up and running. It is hoped that the proceeds and awareness raised from this unique project will be able to generate much more funds and donations to give back to the NZ Whale & Dolphin Trust for research.

 What specifically will the money go toward? Will it go toward pushing for legislation against set netting?
Yes and trawling and album number 2. The new changes that Government made to the fishing industry in the last two weeks are a great step in the right direction. But the dolphins are still not fully protected. We need their population to start growing again. The new changes simply keep the dolphins at their current depleted state, 25% of their former population size. To incite continual change, we need more scientific evidence where it is needed. Many dolphin population estimates for areas around NZ are out of date, so the priority is to conduct aerial and boat based population surveys for Maui, Hector and now Common dolphins all around NZ. We are constantly seeking funding and major sponsors to make this happen.

How did you get the musicians to donate songs?
I just asked them. I explained the situation our dolphins are facing, how many are left, how slow they breed, how vulnerable they are to dying due to set nets and trawling, and how close they are, Maui’s especially, to extinction. I stressed that we have a special relationship with these dolphins, they are spiritual guardians and they are unique to our coastline and we can’t lose them. I explained why I am making this all happen after seeing the Hector dolphin population decline drastically over 7 years in Kaikoura. I told them that their music can help shift national awareness and promote change towards more sustainable and abundant coastal ecosystems. I just tried to explain the situation from the dolphins’ perspective and get in to their hearts and inspire a contribution. Most artists were very keen to be a part. However their corresponding record companies were not. But once they understood more about the situation, they couldn’t say no.

Some artists donated specific songs themselves, such as Sola Rosa with Lights Out. Most let me choose the appropriate track from their latest album. Miracle Sun by Don McGlashan is about going on holiday, and how people who haven’t seen the ocean in ages jump straight in with their clothes on, and dolphin comes to play with the children. The Maui and Hector dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world and they are A Room full of Cute, a delightful song by Minuit. Some tracks are more specific to the fishing industry, like Fur Patrol’s Hidden Agenda and Pitch Black’s Rude Mechanicals. The Black Seeds, with The Answer bridge the issue, inciting positive political changes. Others sing of extinction, such as Ragamuffin Children and notably Ariana Tikao with E Rere, a song about farewelling a spirit. With Maui dolphins so on the brink, let’s hope this song does not have to come true.

We have many dedicated tracks, enough to release several more albums when funds allow, featuring artists such as Hollie Smith, Cornerstone Roots, Shapeshifter, Tiki, Nomad, Ladi 6 and many more. Some artists are working with actual sound samples of Hector’s dolphins and weaving them into their music. You can listen out for these special tracks on upcoming compilations.

We have a fierce driving force to ensure all whale and dolphins are protected and fostered in our waters, and the southern hemisphere. With our own native dolphins in such trouble, the primary focus is to bring about political change through raising national awareness and restoring our connection to these unique dolphins.

Gemma has long term plans to take on Japan and the whaling issue, ‘We have to look after our own back yard first or Japan will not take us seriously. As soon as our own dolphins are in a safer position, we can focus on creative ways to bring about conscious change in Japan. We still have less than 5% of our original whale populations around our coastline, even though NZ stopped whaling in 1964. They still haven’t returned and they never will if Japan keeps illegally getting its way. When I’m a grandma sitting in my rocking chair overlooking the oceans, I want to see our whales have returned, to live, and breed in our bays. There used to be so many, our great grandmothers spoke of the noise at night from their antics, when they were trying to get to sleep! They belong here and there is hope they will return.’

Gemma also wants to develop dolphin and whale research programmes where anyone can come out on the boat and be involved in the process of data collection and observation. A special focus will be collecting photo IDs and sound samples. She has also researched deeply into the fragmented history of our relationship with whales and dolphins, before whaling came to Aotearoa. Our heritage is very unique and rich, and she hopes to publish some of this knowledge in future.

Originally from Wellington, she developed her passion for whales whilst living in Queenstown, far from the sea for NZ. It was also here that she met some of the nations’ most well loved musicians. She left a career of singing and acting to live in Kaikoura and learn more about whales. After completing a course in Marine Tourism, she was soon guiding on the Whalewatch boats where she became an elite environmental interpreter. Passengers went on after their tours with a holistic understanding of the marine environment, a love for the animals and were much better clued up on conservation issues. Sometimes they were lucky to get some live singing too. She learnt more out on the water over the 7 years she was out on the water, than at University, just through observing and putting knowledge into practice. This is what drove her to begin Music 4 Mauis,
‘When I first started, we could see Hector’s dolphins nearly every tour if we had the time. Nowadays you have to be very lucky to see one. I got so worried about the dolphins. I knew they were in big trouble and someone had to do something.’

Inspired to help the whales, dolphins and other marine life more and more, she was encouraged to pursue an academic career by cetacean scientists Steve Dawson and Liz Slooten. She completed her Bachelor of Science last year, minoring in Kai Tahu studies and Ecology. Now a qualified Zoologist, Gemma is currently working towards her Masters in Science for Communication. With strong Maori connections, identifying with Kati Mamoe and Waitaha ancestry, she is also Irish, Scottish and English. Gemma had the idea for the CD at an important dolphin hui last winter in Kawhia, where she also made national news with her words. By uniting her zest for ocean conservation with a love for Aotearoa music, at first she thought she could never make it happen. Now after 9 months of dedication and a dolphin stall tour over the summer music festival circuit, the first album is out, the movement is catching on, and many people are helping out the dolphins in all sorts of creative ways….and they’re working. 

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2 June 2008

Donate to Music 4 Mauis

You can donate towards research and conservation work through Music4Mauis and the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust. All donations great and small count! Send a cheque to Music4Mauis at the address below. Make a cash advance to the Music4Mauis account

Bank: Kiwibank
Branch: Cromwell
Account no.:38-9006-0118414-00


For donations, media and press enquiries, and more information about our campaigns or projects please contact us at the following address;



381 Tomahawk Rd

Ocean Grove,

Dunedin 9001

Tel: +64-27 694 3533










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