Māra Moana: Kelp reseeding in Whakaraupō/ Lyttelton

May 12, 2023

May 12th

Our moana is changing fast and the warming of our seas is creating new and complex challenges for the life within them. In Aotearoa we are ‘experiencing longer and more intense marine heatwaves that are going beyond the thermal threshold of some of our native kelp populations’ which is having significant effects on our kelp forests.

Coastal People: Southern Skies, a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE), based at the University of Otago is helping to fund a kelp reseeding project that is developing ways to restore diminishing native kelp forests. The project is called Māra Moana.

Supported by Otago University researchers, a local Ngāti Wheke team is working on identifying and developing ‘climate resilient’ rimurimu/ seaweed for the best chance at restoring a flourishing marine ecosystem. Scientists are also looking to develop toolkits for handover to communities invested in looking after their local areas. Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke and Whakaraupō is a perfect test bed for this approach.

Recently kaimahi from the Strategy & Influence Moana Pou, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, assisted Otago University researchers and Ngāti Wheke Tangata Tiaki to outplant small tiles cultured with native Kōauau (Giant Kelp or Bladder Kelp) spores.

The mahi being done through Māra Moana compliments the Ngāi Tahu Undaria Control Programme where Ngāi Tahu divers are harvesting the invasive and undesirable kelp (Undaria pinnatifida), with the Otago University and Ngāti Wheke team filling the spaces left on reefs in Whakaraupō with climate change resistant native kelps.

The Undaria Control Programme is supported by LINZ Jobs for Nature funding and the University of Otago and it is aiming to control the spread of the invasive species Undaria, which can damage native ecosystems.

Marine conservation charity Live Ocean Foundation is also a part of the project. As the charity partner of the NZ SailGP team, Live Ocean is the recipient of prizemoney coming off the back of the sailing team’s success in recent international SailGP events and this is helping with the Whakaraupō component of the Māra Moana project.

John Kottier, Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, loading rocks with cultured tiles on to their Rūnanga vessel Kaiwaka1 as Prof. Chris Hepburn, University of Otago, prepares for the diving operation.

Cultured tile on tagged rock (to aid monitoring over time).



Tanya Stevens, Strategy & Influence Moana Pou, screwing a cultured tile into a rock for the divers to reseed.

Dr Daniel Pritchard, Coastal People: Southern Skies, University of Otago, prepares to move a rock with cultured tile on to a reef in Whakaraupō.