More than 100 tonnes of caulerpa washed up in this Great Barrier Island Bay after Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo / Sid Ware / Ministry for Primary Industries

Great Barrier to Benefit from $5 Million Funding Against Caulerpa

In a move to protect the marine ecosystems of Great Barrier Island and the wider Hauraki Gulf, the government has announced a $5 million funding initiative aimed at combating the invasive seaweed, caulerpa. Exotic caluerpa poses a threat to biodiversity by outcompeting native seaweeds, thereby choking ecosystems and restricting access to food for other marine life.

Aotea Great Barrier Local Board Chair, Izzy Fordham, expressed optimism about the new funding, underscoring the urgency of addressing the caulerpa threat: “We hope new technologies prove successful and more funding is released so we can see the full elimination of this species. It has spread fast in Aotea Great Barrier, so we don’t have much time.” she said.

The funding will enable trials of innovative removal techniques at specific locations, including Iris Shoal near Kawau Island, and support ongoing efforts to manage the seaweed’s presence around Aotea Great Barrier. Additionally, Waiheke Island will serve as a test site for enhancing surveillance technologies, with the outcomes expected to benefit the wider Hauraki Gulf area.

Pilot programmes including dredging, and laying carpet mats to block out the weed have been executed in different regions across the country, since the species was first discovered in 2021.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown voiced his support for the government’s intervention, highlighting the grave threat posed by caulerpa to the vitality of local harbors.

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

“I’ve been advocating for this since last year. I care about our harbours, and right now I believe it is the single biggest threat to their vitality. It was a key call in our manifesto to the government.” Brown said.

The efforts to manage caulerpa’s spread have seen the implementation of Controlled Area Notices (CANs) around Aotea, restricting activities such as anchoring and certain types of fishing which could facilitate the seaweed’s dispersal.

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has tempered hopes of eliminating the invasive weed with a sobering reminder: no country has successfully eradicated a large-scale infestation of exotic caulerpa.

Brown says he’s optimistic about the new investment’s but ultimately reminded boaties their role is crucial in stopping the spread of the invasive weed which can spread up to several centimetres a day in ideal conditions.

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

“There are encouraging new approaches being used that this money will help with, but I encourage boaties and beachgoers alike to continue being vigilant. You’ve done well; keep it up.” Brown said.

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