Phil McCabe

"Think it, speak it, do it!"

May 12, 2015 / Yana Papaya / 2 comments

Words and story by Yana Papaya 

Edited by Rina Patel

Photos by Katherine Brook

As a sensitive and open extrovert, I usually find that I’m deeply inspired by an individual I meet along my life’s journey, whom I will later interview for Papaya Stories.

Usually it just so happens that I become attracted towards an individual and only then does a Papaya Stories project unfold. The brands or ideas that a subject might represent begin to follow. But an acquaintance with Phil McCabe was a bit different. Firstly, I fell in love with the business he runs and only then did I have the chance to meet his inspirational self.

In recent years Raglan has become the number one place for me where I find my peace, solitude, endless inspiration and spiritual strength. It was later that I discovered Solscape, a wonderful place that Phil and his beautiful wife Bernadette built together. Solscape has become an inspirational place for many travellers, environmentalists, yogis and of course, surfers.  Needless to say, Raglan has become my personal Mecca.

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Solscape attracts your eyes. Perched beautifully on a top of a mountain it overlooks mysterious valleys stretching out miles away as gentle and sometimes boisterous waves of ocean beckon you for some play. Offering a variety of accommodation options, be it camping, abandoned/upgraded train cabins to tipis to self-contained cottages,  Solscape has something for everyone.

It attracts your ears and soul. Interesting humans from around the globe come to stay, often volunteering their services where you may easily find yourself joining in various conversations, anything from permaculture ideas, the vibes of this place, yoga, the surf lifestyle, – you name it. Solscape will conquer your heart if you are even open to the prospect of transformation.

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Phil and Bernadette

Phil and Bernadette


My own transformation happened thanks to an incredible encounter with owners; Phil and Bernadette. Firstly I met Bernadette, a beautiful lady who was teaching us yoga during my first stay. Her calm voice, gentle manners and sparkly eyes were my source of inspiration on a long rainy Labour weekend. Later on I had the chance to meet Phil as we had a quick chat about the Solscape way of life. As my relations with the Solscape community developed, its spirit continued to grow, naturally leading me to progress on my relations with Phil and Bernadette as well. At some point I caught myself out as I realized that I was coming to Raglan and staying at Solscape almost every weekend!

You may call it addiction. You may call it passion. You may call it just Love. This love needs no explanation. I love the Solscape concept. I love people who are a big or a small part of the Solscape life, top management, full-time staff or people who come and volunteer over months, and even regular customers. I feel like we should write a story about each of them, which I hope we’ll do in the future.

In the meantime I would like to pay my huge respect to Phil McCabe with this upcoming story. Please meet the owner of a magical place, eco-retreat, Solscape. A Man with a Capital “M” who thinks wisely, speaks the truth and acts according to his own life law, helping the community to grow, running KASM (Kiwis Against Seabed Mining) devoted to protecting the environment and New Zealand’s natural inherent purity.

Phil McCabe is a great activist who loves the ocean from the bottom of his heart and does everything to prevent a negative human or corporate impact on nature. A year ago he even took up a new challenge to help New Zealand’s West Coast from seabed mining and fought against the corporate the world. Together with the KASM community he stood up as a leader to protect his land. To do so Phil had to keep up with embodying of a qualified lawyer in order to represent his interests and point of view in the court. He managed to succeed and win the case, which was the most incredible thing that he has ever done. His story is a testament to believing that everything is possible and there are no limits to human capacity and possibilities.

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I am a quiet person, I guess I think a lot and I do. I am kind of serious, but I also like to play around and have a good time. And I like teasing people when any opportunity comes, even in serious situations when people don’t expect to be teased or something. I think it comes from my father whom I spent a lot of time with. He was a businessman. He taught me lots of things.

I really value the model of permaculture ethics, which is essentially earth care, people care and fair share. On the first level, we need to look after the planet, as the planet is looking after us, second level – you look after the people and community and finally,  we look into the balance of operating. If you look at nature there is an exchange of energy in every aspect of it. In that kind of economy exchange, we don’t need to be afraid of money, labour or people exchange, we just need to make sure that it keeps moving. If that gets blocked for this or that reason, the flow stops. If things are cut off, they die. Like, if you stop the blood flowing into your thumb, it would fall off eventually.

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When we first started to develop Solscape we thought of a place where people come to stay to restore, revive and get inspired. I think we are achieving that now. People come and they’re open to being filled up and we’re always working to provide a comfortable inspiring place. We’ve recently met a few people who are doing similar things in different places so we hope that this trend continues and we can form a network of places like Solscape all around the world.

For me Solscape is like a canvas where you can put down whatever colours you want. It’s a multimedia canvas, a creative space. That’s personally why I am still here and the potential to affect change. Solscape provides an opportunity for people to stop and be in a neat environment with cool stuff to do, get to know new people and even themselves. Lots of people who spend some time here decide to live their lives differently.  Lots of people never leave Raglan!

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Being in a small community helps to keep my integrity because I know I am not anonymous. While walking down the street here I always see people I know, so I can’t misbehave. Similarly, I can’t misbehave in my business or how I operate my business because it will affect the rest of my life. I also think the Māori community in Raglan helps me to maintain my integrity as well as my high level of respect, as I want to be OK in their eyes and be a positive presence in their community. If I didn’t care about them it wouldn’t matter, this is why I strive to behave respectfully, appropriately, properly. After 20 years here I’m still learning what it means to be part of this wonderful community.

For me there are moments in time that define the next major step. There can be a whole series of moments where things occur, things build up to a breaking point on some level. There are points in life where the pressure builds and then they just break through. This happened for me with seabed mining and how I got involved with KASM. When I first heard the idea of seabed mining in 2005 I was confused, I didn’t understand it, it made zero sense to me. But it held a bit of head-space until eventually in 2012 it was the most important thing in my sphere and I couldn’t ignore any longer. I remember NYE going into 2006 I had this idea in my head, some sort of New Year resolution and I decided that I wanted to do some work that didn’t just benefit my circle specifically but had a broader impact. It was a conscious choice, it was like a click moment when I realized that at that point in time I wanted to do something outside of my game, outside of my working routine, something that stands out and makes a difference to the wider community.

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We did a silent protest, 200 people marched through the streets of Raglan in dead silence. It was KASM’s first confrontation with a company that wanted to destroy the West Coast of New Zealand. We stood up as a community, we were very strong, very committed and determined at that point which was carried all throughout the two and half year campaign and it was a beautiful thing. I think the KASM case has and will inspire lots of people from different communities and groups. We tend to think that we have no power, no ability to have effect and there’s no point in rising up, but this isn’t so. We were deeply affronted, we stood up, we stayed up, we maintained our belief and our hopes and we were successful.

Everyone rich or poor, young or old, respects the activist Jane Goodall. In a way she was indirectly supporting KASM by speaking out about mining when she was in NZ. It took great courage to speak out against the New Zealand government, but she didn’t care and by being bold.she gave us an incredible boost bringing the issue into public recognition.

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Everything is interconnected, it’s an absolute. So please don’t tell me when you install a pipeline in Canada and burn the oil somewhere in Asia that it doesn’t affect other nations, because it does. They tried to tell us that seabed mining further down the coast would not affect us in Raglan. That is such a lie. Imagine your body as a whole micro planet. You don’t go and mine your left foot. If you did, you’d affect your whole body structure. The same principle applies to nature and the environment. Every part has a role and a function and if you change one part you change the whole.

Actually everything is possible, we can achieve anything we want. During the heaviest week of the hearing with KASM our lawyer was away in New York and I had to play ‘Bush Lawyer’. Hands down, cross examining was the most difficult thing that I’ve attempted to do in my life. I did reasonably well one or two days, failed on one day and then did pretty well on the final day. I was pushing, pushing myself to try to cope with a whole new level of new scientific and technical stuff that I previously wasn’t even aware of. Trying to understand the subjects enough to ask the really serious questions, trying to pick holes in the expert’s evidence. That experience gave me a glimpse into the fact that I can achieve anything I want to achieve. We put so many limitations on ourselves, which is wrong. Look at Kelly Slater. He is just a ‘Yes-man!’ He rolls with every wave he has a chance to ride (pun intended!) and just says “Yes”, does this turn – “Yes”, can I make this drop? – “Yes.” All he thinks is “Yes” and now it’s no surprise that he is the eleven-times World Champion.

What is going to happen in 40 years time? I think if society isn’t taking responsibility for our effect on the planet then it doesn’t look pretty at all. But I have belief that we’ll turn things around. Personally, I have this sense of responsibility that I have to do things to change our trajectory and there is definitely urgency around that. It’s great to be home and relax, surf and spend time with family, but it’s hard sometimes when that sense of urgency kicks in.. It’s a reality, we need significant change. You can choose to ignore it, or you can go down that dooms day rabbit hole or you can choose to face it and commit to doing what needs to be done. The current pace of change won’t work. We need to step it up.

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When I was 12 or 13, my brother, my friend Riki Albert and myself went on a bike ride. There was a stretch of road called Earthquake gulley just past our house, a new bypass road was being built. We rode up to the top of a hill on the new road to ride down but they hadn’t placed the hard stuff on top, so the road was very soft. My brother and I went first and watched from the bottom as Riki who had no brakes, ended up zooming down taking a different line and if you didn’t make the sharp quarter turn at the bottom you fast became friends with the bush on the other side! Well Riki didn’t make the turn and hit a log and all we saw was his back wheel and legs go flying!! Hilarious!

The best thing that I have ever done in my life was trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal with my wife Bernadette and our daughter Sequoia. My little girl was 8 and she was the youngest person that has ever done this trek – 19 days, 220km over 5,500 m pass.

As for the ultimate walking expedition I would like to walk along the whole Coast of New Zealand. Getting outdoors and walking or cycling through familiar areas gives you a completely different perspective on the world and this or that destination. We fly over them, we drive over them or cycle or walk through them. Each one is a completely new level of experience. Its not the destination, it’s the journey. So when we fly over the vast areas, it seems a waste, a waste of an opportunity.

Life’s motto: Think it, speak it, do it!

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