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Bay of Plenty’s thriving aquaculture industry

Fifteen years ago, the Bay of Plenty had little more than a fledgling aquaculture industry, but it was a mine of untapped potential.

Recognising the growth opportunities, the original Bay of Connections Regional Aquaculture Organisation was established in 2010, following an ambitious aquaculture strategy developed the year before.

This signalled the Bay of Plenty putting its stake in the ground and committing to the development of the industry in the region, with a core focus on creating future opportunities and new jobs.

Since then, the region has grown significantly and is well on its way to becoming a world-class aquaculture centre, attracting top academic talent, established operations and numerous opportunities.

One of those original operations has continued to grow over the past decade, reaching a significant milestone this month with the expansion of Whakatōhea Mussels Ōpōtiki Ltd and the opening of its new processing facility.

Whakatōhea Mussels Factory

The $37 million development is expected to create 230 jobs in Ōpōtiki by 2025 and was made possible thanks to the Provincial Growth Fund, which contributed $19m, and the support of Whakatōhea Mussels’ Shareholders.

The official opening was held on 2 July and was well attended by hundreds of people, including Winston Peters, Shane Jones and Tāmati Coffey among the key speakers.

Whakatōhea Mussels’ Chief Executive, Peter Vitasovich says the new mussel processing facility has been well received by industry leaders and the community alike.

“It was the foresight of elders on the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board who recognised the opportunity in the Eastern Bay of Plenty to farm the sea.

“It’s taken a while but we have steadily developed the marine farming operation. The opening of this processing factory has been a major piece of the puzzle, turning our dream into a reality.”

Mr Vitasovich says regional funding has been a core component in accelerating business development of the aquaculture industry in the region.

“The likes of the Provincial Growth Fund has enabled good partnerships between Iwi, community, industry and the Crown.

“Aquaculture presents significant opportunities for the whole region and we will continue to develop and innovate, create regular, sustainable jobs and, most importantly, build a thriving industry.”

Whakatōhea Mussels Factory2

Commercial production at the new facility is expected to begin in August and so far, 42 staff have been hired, with plans to recruit a further 66 this month.

While business opportunities rise on the aquaculture front, so too does the region’s academic prowess.

Last week, more than 400 scientists, iwi, environmental stakeholders, and Crown research institutes attended the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society conference hosted by the University of Waikato in Tauranga.

A host of new research papers and kaupapa were unveiled at the conference, including the discovery of a never-before-seen sea sponge off the coast of Tauranga that could help fight cancer.

The conference – the biggest aquaculture event the country has ever hosted - also explored the potential to create jobs and a high-value biotech industry in New Zealand, while continuing to protect our marine ecosystems from threats, including land runoff, pollutants, sea temperature rise, and ocean acidification.

Having the capacity and reputation to draw academic expertise from around the country for conferences like this further cements Bay of Plenty as a prominent aquaculture hub.

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

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