An ambitious project to restore the once vast mussel reefs of the Hauraki Gulf got a boost over Matariki, as 150 tonnes of the shellfish were dropped into several sites in the Mahurangi Harbour.
The first drop of about 50 tonnes on Friday, June 24 was largely ceremonial and saw dignitaries, members of Ngati Manuhiri and the Revive Our Gulf project heading out to two sites to drop handfuls of the mussels, or kūtai, overboard. This was followed on Monday, June 27 by a much more vigorous drop of 100 tonnes of shellfish, this time from large sacks.
The mussels came from commercial mussel operations around the Coromandel Peninsula.
Hauraki Gulf Forum co-chair and Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust acting chief executive Nicola MacDonald says, “Without kūtai, the moana is a shadow of its former self.”
The drops continue efforts to restore the reefs that started around 10 years ago. The mussel reefs once covered over 600 square kilometres of the Hauraki Gulf seabed, but were destroyed by a boom-and-bust commercial dredging industry.
The reefs never came back after their demise, partly due to sediment flowing off the land and into the gulf.
Ngāti Manuhiri is working in conjunction with Revive Our Gulf on the reef revitalisation initiative in this part of the gulf.
Revive Our Gulf is a collaboration between Nature Conservancy NZ, the University of Auckland Institute of Marine Science and the Mussel Reef Restoration Trust. They plan a network of restoration sites across the gulf to support research on how to achieve mussel reef regeneration “at scale”.
Spokesman Peter van Kampen says the two recent drops are the start of their largest series of kūtai drops to date.
“Working with our treaty partners is a priority for us,” he says. “We’ve worked alongside Ngāti Manuhiri on the kūtai restoration kaupapa since 2016. This taakoha to Tangaroa symbolises our commitment to improving the taiao.”