Auckland Council give mussel reef restoration the green light

Kaimahi shovelling mussels
Revive Our Gulf kaimahi volunteers shovel mussels into the water at Mahurangi

Press release: Revive Our Gulf

Mussel reef restoration work in the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana / Te Moananui-ā-Toi took a huge step forward today, with Auckland Council’s decision to approve a resource consent – valid for the next 35 years.  The consent gives the green light for green-lipped mussel restoration in areas of the Hauraki Gulf that are within the Auckland regional boundary. 

“This is a big win for mussel reef restoration in the Hauraki Gulf (Tīkapa Moana / Te Moananui-ā-Toi)”, explains Peter Miles, Programme Director/Kaiwahahaere of the Mussel Reef Restoration Trust, the organisation that coordinates the scientific, specialist, and volunteer efforts of the Revive Our Gulf project. “The granting of a single, long-term, consent means that mussel restoration practitioners won’t need to apply for individual consents for each and every restoration site.”   In the past the trust has worked with mana whenua groups Ngāti Manuhiri, restoring mussel beds in Mahurangi, and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei on Okahu Bay, depositing more than 150 tonnes of mussels to date.

“The granting of a single, long-term, consent means that mussel restoration practitioners won’t need to apply for individual consents for each and every restoration site”.

The consent provides a workable solution to the consenting challenges of what will be a long-term, geographically-broad restoration project.  Under an “adaptive management” approach, broad consent rules are agreed without nominating specific sites for restoration.  Five-year plans and one-year work plans will be submitted annually to Council for approval.  

“I congratulate everyone involved for the dedication, collaboration and foresight that has gone into progressing the mussel restoration project to this point,” says Hauraki Gulf Forum Co-Chair and Waitematā ward Councillor, Pippa Coom.

“Auckland Council’s approval of a long-term resource consent shows that sensible planning and future-proofed decisions for the benefit of the environment are possible, especially when people work together across sectors to find solutions. I hope that this outcome can provide learning for restoration work across the moana around Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa and look forward to seeing progress on the mussel restoration project.”

With the consent in place, Revive Our Gulf  plans to ramp up restoration efforts in 2021 in partnership with iwi/hapū across the Gulf.  Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are replenishing their mussel beds to help restore the mauri and health of Ōkahu Bay.  Tom Irvine, Chief Operating Officer of Ngāti Whātua Ōrakai – Whai Māia explains, “This continues the mahi that started in Ōkahu Bay nearly a decade ago, and is another step towards healing the mamae (hurt) of the Government decision in the early 1900s to build a sewer pipe directly across our beach front that discharged effluent directly into Ōkahu Bay”.  Mr. Irvine says that the clearing of the bay of boat moorings, storm water separation, and now the continuation of mussel bed restoration all help cleanse the bay and increase biodiversity.  He would like to see Ōkahu Bay become a “pilot site” for other iwi and hapū to come and see, and then emulate.

Likewise the Hauraki Gulf Forum, the statutory body that promotes integrated management of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, has welcomed this development. Tangata Whenua Co-Chair Nicola MacDonald said “It is wonderful to see Auckland Council supporting the long-term aspirations of the community and mana whenua. This lays a foundation for achieving the Forum’s goal of restoring 1000sq.km. of shellfish-beds and reefs in the Hauraki Gulf. Now it is time to do the mahi.”

Mr. Miles points out that the scaling-up is not without its challenges,  “We’ve been really fortunate to have The Nature Conservancy as a cornerstone supporter over the years, bringing both fundraising support and international shellfish restoration skills.  The Foundation North G.I.F.T Fund has also been instrumental; funding science, mātauranga Māori and innovation in the space.  Now  we need to see both public and private funding going into this project.”  Revive Our Gulf has partnered with Auckland Foundation to encourage impactful giving by generous Aucklanders to fund the restoration efforts. “We know that across Tāmaki Makarau many share our goal, and want to see meaningful improvement in the state of the Hauraki Gulf – so they, their children and their grandchildren can experience a healthier, more abundant Tīkapa Moana”.      

With plans ready to go, the Revive Our Gulf project looks forward to making 2021 a year on and below the water,  making progress in restoring the mussel reefs that once dominated the Hauraki Gulf.  Sub-tidal mussel reefs were once a dominant “biogenic habitat” in the Gulf before they were commercially dredged to near 100% removal in the first half of the 20th Century.   Researchers have shown these habitats to have been highly productive core building blocks of marine life in the Gulf.

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