Northland hapū, Patu Harakeke, is the first to receive local Regional Council funding to conduct their own research into the harbour’s badly depleted seafood stocks.
Whangarei Harbour has always been a major food source for the people living on its shores. The hapū have placed a ban on one particular pipi bed due to the massive decline in it from an estimated 100,000 tonnes to only 100.
Juliane Chetham from the Patu Harakeke Trust Board says, “We can’t put kaimoana on our table, we can’t feed our kids at the moment and we can’t manaaki our manuhiri. We have been unable to put kaimoana on the table and hui and tangi recently. That's the bottom line for us and this is just a step to see what the status is at the moment and what we can do to manage it.”
The Whangarei Harbour Health Improvement fund was created as a consent requirement of the Northport development. But certain councillors have harshly criticised Patu Harakeke over the allocation of $62,000 for their research project.
Colin Dall of Te Kaunihera a rohe o Te Taitokerau says, “The purpose of the fund is to basically improve the health of the harbour and to study and or mitigate effects of the port development on tangata whenua values of the harbour.”
And Chetham says, “We and other tangata whenua around the harbour have been involved and participated in other research that's happened and we've always participated on a voluntary basis. I don't see what the problem is with us trying to build our capacity and lead this ourselves, which is what we're trying to do here.”
The majority of the substantial fund has so far been allocated to government agencies like NIWA and the Ministry of Primary Industries. So this allocation is seen as the beginning of the local hapū developing the capacity to take care of their own backyard.
The goal is to find a way to regenerate the seafood resources in the harbour to benefit future generations.