ConservationPast Projects

Biosecurity in the Bay of Islands

By September 2, 2011 No Comments

Tangata whenua and the Bay of Islands community working with government to future-proof our sustainability through managing marine invasives

Overall Objective

For the community to assist government in preventing establishment of priority alien marine species, and to help reduce the spread of others, in the Bay of Islands

Specific Objectives

  1. To extend the targeted pest surveillance in the Bay of Islands already undertaken by MAF Biosecurity to better account for temporal and spatial variability
  2. To train key people throughout the region to recognise the main pests
  3. To develop long-term surveillance plans that meet government standard
  4. To develop a rapid, full community response capability in the event of any invasion


Much of the economy of the Bay of Islands, and the well-being of its people, depend on its seas being free from the more noxious of the invasive plant and animal species. Although it is impossible to rein-in all invasives (128 have been reported in Northland), the communities can assist Northland Regional Council (NRC)—the agency responsible for the control of plant and animal pests—to keep at bay the most threatening of them, and to restrict spread of others.

Bay of Islands and Whangarei are the New Zealand ports under greatest threat from marine invasives. The Bay of Islands is the first port of call for 500 or so private vessels each year (cruise ships are not seen as being a problem), and in turn many of these—and others from the Bay— visit other parts of the country. Detection and control of key invasive species in the Bay of Islands is, therefore, not only essential for this place, but also for the entire country. By keeping our own nest clean, there is less chance of spread of invasives out into the motu.

The primary threat is believed to lie with vessels that make landfall at the quarantine berth in the Opua Marina. Accordingly this is where the authorities presently expend most effort. But even here, there is limited spatial and temporal coverage, let alone surveillance of any other parts of the Bay of Islands. This is risky. For example, the Australian sea squirt Eudistoma was not reported from the Opua Marina, but was found in many other locations within the Bay.

This proposal is for a one-year pilot development of a Bay of Islands community marine pest- surveillance and control programme, with NRC and MAF. Its primary target will be the non- indigenous organisms listed on the MAF’s Unwanted Organisms Register (which are ‘Exclusion pests according to NRC’s classification), but will also address those ‘Suppression pests’ and ‘Risk assessment pests’ recommended. This programme will complement the pest-control work that tangata whenua and the community conduct on land and coastal margins.


Tangata whenua (Taumarere ki Rakaumangamanga and Ngati Hine) and the broader communities (throughout the Bay of Islands, with its constituent community groups and its support from local and central government), will work with NRC and MAF Biosecurity.


The area for the pilot is in and about the Opua Marina; the lower reaches of the Kawakawa and Waikare Inlets; Veronica Channel; and Tapeka to Motukokako, taking in all the islands of Ipipiri.


A programme manager will be appointed to establish a number of projects and programmes likely to include the following (the details of which to be worked up with NRC and MAF Biosecurity).

Decide the main threat species, vectors, and patterns of dispersal for the Bay of Islands Pressure/liaise with organisations most able to help reduce risk of invasions: Marina
association, marina contractors, MAF’s port clearance staff, marine farmers, etc.

  • Learn how to recognise the threat species
  • Develop methods of detecting their presence (MAF’s toolkit), including the use of underwater video cameras at the quarantine berth
  • Train, and harness the assistance of the community (including volunteer scuba divers)
  • Establish detection in priority parts of the Bay of Islands at agreed spatial and temporal scales
  • Develop rapid response methods in which the broader community can participate in case of invasion
  • Develop the operating and reporting procedure for following years, and research leveraging opportunities to fund the work into the future

Resources required

The project manager position is 0.5 FTE for year one. It is envisaged that the person be based in Russell’s Matauwhi Bay (ex-DoC) facility, so there will be minimal office set-up costs ($3K for phone, computer, etc.). There will be a separate travel budget of $3K, to include ferry travel.

There will be a budget to cover the dive air-fills of volunteers, their basic travel costs, nets etc for sampling the key organisms, chilled storage of samples, etc. All to be negotiated.


This low-cost plan is where tangata whenua, the community, industry and stakeholders take their share of responsibility in protecting the waters of the Bay of Islands from noxious invasives. It’s about people working together: NRC, MAF, DOC, tangata whenua, industry, and the community in general, helping to future-proof the sustainability of the Bay—an approach transferable elsewhere.

Robert Willoughby
28th August 2011

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