The Mussel Reef Restoration Trust (MRRT) recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, marking a decade of dedicated work towards restoring kūtai / green-lipped mussel beds in the Hauraki Gulf. While milestones like this feel like modest accomplishments in the world of conservation, they offer an opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge the long-term nature of conservation work.
From the very beginning, the MRRT founders set out with an ambitious goal to restore and protect mussel beds and associated habitats across the entire Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana / Te Moananui-ā-Toi. This ambitious goal has been of great benefit to the project, and alongside our collaborative partners, we can all proudly look back on the past decade and share a sense of satisfaction on the progress made towards restoring the mauri of the Hauraki Gulf.
Having taken those early steps back in 2013 alongside Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei rangatira and Richelle Kahui McConnell, the MRRT now collaborates under the umbrella project “Revive Our Gulf,” partnering with The Nature Conservancy, the University of Auckland, and the project’s current Tangata Whenua partners – Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Ngāti Manuhiri, and Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki. Together, we have deployed over 372 tonnes of mussels, creating multiple test beds where we are learning how to best restore the mussel beds.
Restoration in the marine environment is a complex and challenging endeavour that presents unique obstacles and is not as well understood as terrestrial restoration. Although there are successful shellfish restoration projects around the world, such as oyster restoration (which has been underway for about 40 years), our work in restoring mussel beds on soft-sediment is distinct. We are kūtai innovators, having to lead the way and adapt as we learn.
One of the most significant accomplishments over the past decade has been creating the enabling conditions for this work and bringing active restoration into the regulatory framework. Despite early barriers with Biosecurity NZ and a council consent process, we now have strong and effective relationships with regulators, including a 35-year consent with Auckland Council to undertake this work. The Revive Our Gulf collaboration has solid planning, strategy, and coordination between all parties, and a recent Environment Court ruling that Northland Regional Council’s Coastal Plan will include mussel restoration as a permitted activity is a testament to the influence of Revive Our Gulf in creating the enabling conditions for this important work across the motu.
As the MRRT looks ahead to the future, there’s reason to be excited. While there’s still much to learn about the most effective approaches for restoration, the MRRT and its partners are confident that we’re working toward a scalable solution.. When more fully understood, we’ll be able to share that knowledge and scale this operation to have an even greater impact on the Hauraki Gulf and beyond.
The MRRT is incredibly grateful to all the funders, supporters, and industry partners who have contributed to this work over the last decade. It truly takes a village to raise a mussel community and re-mussel the Gulf. The MRRT is proud to be part of such a dedicated and passionate community. Here’s to another decade of hard work and success! A big ngā mihi nui to the many contributors that have played a vital role in our journey so far!
Photo by Shaun Lee – Te Au o Morunga, October 2022