Gulf revival begins

Press Release: Auckland Council

The first trial plots have been established in an ambitious project to revive the Hauraki Gulf.

Seven tonnes of green-lipped mussels were deposited off eastern Waiheke Island in the past week and checks by divers have confirmed their successful positioning on bare seafloor.

Hauraki Gulf Forum Chairman John Tregidga, re-elected for a third term yesterday, made the announcement saying that the possibility of moving into a new phase of active restoration of the Hauraki Gulf is exciting.

“Our State of the Gulf reports show long term decline in many environmental indicators and we need innovation and ambition in both practical measures and policy setting to turn things around,” he said.

The Revive our Gulf project aims to restore mussel beds that once covered much of the inner Hauraki Gulf and Firth of Thames. They were extensively dredged between 1910 and 1960 and damaged and denuded areas did not recover, being replaced by barren muds.

‘Revive our Gulf’ was initiated after the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s annual seminar in 2012; a collective of scientists, planners, recreational fishers, environmentalists, educators and business leaders who have formed a charitable trust.

“The first drop of mussels is an important milestone,” says Revive our Gulf Chair John Laurence. “We have been working closely with the mussel industry and were able to move quickly last week to respond to a situation where surplus mussels were offered by North Island Mussels Ltd.”

The group has also partnered with the University of Auckland so that two students will study trial plots for their doctorate work. The project’s research director Shane Kelly said the mussels were dropped by mussel barge and form seven, dense, “living room” size trial plots within an embayment. “We will be looking to see if these beds attract spat and smaller mussels to form sustaining reefs.”

He said the project will focus its efforts “one bay at a time”, adding additional plots as funds and mussels become available and looking to identify factors for successful revival.

The project is also sharing its plans and findings with iwi, who are interested and supportive of the work. Liane Ngamane, elected as deputy chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum yesterday, said new opportunities were emerging for enhancement and partnerships as iwi completed their treaty settlement processes in the region.

The mussel reefs of the Gulf once filtered its waters on a daily basis and boosted fish numbers and associated life at least ten-fold. “Having a sense of past abundance and diversity is essential if we are setting goals for the future,” says John Tregidga. “The project symbolises the can do attitude and creative thinking needed to prepare the Sea Change marine spatial plan for the Gulf.”