Bay of Plenty Aquaculture Group marks first anniversary

As the Bay of Plenty Aquaculture Group (BOPAG) celebrates its first anniversary, Chairman Graeme Coates has reflected on the organisation’s roots, the progress it has made in the past year and its aspirations for the future.

The Group evolved from the Bay of Connections-funded Regional Aquaculture Organisation (RAO), which had supported the region’s fledgling industry since 2009.

In 2020, a decision was made by RAO members to establish an industry-funded and governed membership organisation.

BOPAG, with its broad membership including mussel farmers, iwi, tertiary providers, local and central government, and supporting industry, aims to act as a pipeline for ideas, actions, and networking in the aquaculture industry.

The Group was set up through the work of the initial management committee, comprised of RAO Chairman Graeme Coates, Peter Vitasovich (Whakatōhea Mussels (Ōpōtiki) Ltd (WMOL)), Professor Chris Battershill (University of Waikato), Dickie Farrar (Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board), Rikirangi Gage (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) and Dr Haydn Read (Te Huata Ltd).

Bay of Connections Programme Manager, Dean Howie, has provided knowledge and support from a regional perspective throughout the transition to the new entity.

“The Management Committee has worked well together and has a singular view to build a world class aquaculture industry in the Bay of Plenty, creating jobs and regional growth while protecting the mauri of Te Moana a Toi,” Mr Coates says.

Since its initial meeting, the Group has looked at how it can carry out its mission. This includes developing a Bay of Plenty-wide strategy document for the industry and the region.

This mahi is being carried out by Rebecca Clarkson from Aquaculture Direct Ltd, and is funded by Bay of Plenty Regional Council and ToiEDA.

More than 30 reports have been created on various aspects of aquaculture development in the Bay of Plenty in the past 20 years, including freshwater fish farming, in-depth seabed surveys and land-based support requirements.

Ms Clarkson has collated the reports and linked them with opportunities through iwi aquaculture settlement claims. The final report is due in the third quarter of 2022.

This project sits alongside some key developments for the industry in the past 12 months:

  • WMOL has built a state-of-the-art mussel processing plant in Ōpōtiki, employing 150 staff.
  • Construction of the Ōpōtiki harbour has passed the halfway mark, and planning for the marina and service port to be situated on the western shoreline of the Waioeka River opposite Ōpōtiki township is well underway.
  • The University of Waikato and Toi Ohomai |Te Pūkenga have expanded their regional marine science research facilities and tertiary educational opportunities.
  • Te Whānau-ā-Apanui has obtained funding to support the development of a mussel spat hatchery and research hub near Te Kaha, and local iwi are discussing open ocean aquaculture opportunities with the Government.

“A lot has been achieved since the creation of the Group. The hard mahi, support and encouragement of all involved has been wonderful,” Mr Coates says.