While there is a fledgling Koura aquaculture industry in New Zealand; to date none of the licenced farmers are producing large volumes for sale. Waikoura farming provides an opportunity to create additional revenue without impacting on existing land use activities; for example, there are hundreds of thousands of forestry fire ponds, existing farm irrigation dams or other similar water bodies across productive land in which could be utilised to grow Waikoura.
The distribution of Waikoura has reduced significantly due to the alteration of its natural environment; additionally, the development of the Waikoura farming industry will provide opportunities to release Waikoura back into the wild enhancing natural populations.
New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world with freshwater crayfish that do not carry the crayfish plague disease that has decimated populations in Europe; hence, there is also an opportunity for New Zealand to fill a space and supply overseas markets.
There is growing consumer demand for niche products with an authentic background story. Koura, New Zealand freshwater crayfish, is such a product – Koura are the guardians of clean water, growing only where conditions are free from pollutants.
To date the New Zealand Koura industry has been small with a few Koura producers utilising resource intensive farming methods.
Over the past three years, the Ministry of Primary Industry through the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) has invested in developing a method for farming Koura in New Zealand with Ernslaw One Ltd. The purpose of the investment was to develop and share improved extensive farming methods. The major outcome of the work is a manual, “Freshwater Crayfish Farming – a guide to getting started”.
At the same time, the Koura farming undertaken by Ernslaw One Ltd., trading under the name KEEWAI, has demonstrated expansion pathways and domestic market acceptance of Koura. KEEWAI now have >500 ponds stocked with Koura of various ages.
The next stage of development for the New Zealand Koura industry is further expansion of Koura production, and exploration and development, of both the export and domestic markets. We believe that an opportunity now exists for new producers to enter the industry and together we can develop a large-scale New Zealand Koura export industry. This is a regional development opportunity.
Production of Koura requires non-consumptive water use (and therefore, could be used in settings other than forestry and can sit alongside productive land use without impacting production. We are proposing a collective targeted and consistent approach to farming and marketing New Zealand Koura ensuring Koura achieves the status of a niche product, and not as a lower-valued commodity.
The development of this industry requires the collaboration of key players including technical experts, tertiary institutes as well as large land owners such as rūnanga and forestry owners. Currently, the concept of Koura farming has been pre-approved for further funding under the Primary Growth Partnership subject to the completion of an accepted business case. Scale, and therefore additional Koura farmers are needed.
Koura farming fits well with the Government’s investment agenda promoting “New Zealand Inc.” through establishing export products that represent the national values of clean, green and sustainable. Additionally, the farming of Koura provides the opportunity for employment growth in both geographically and vocationally diverse areas, and it can be scaled considerably without displacing other industries.
The overall objective for all is to establish a Koura industry in New Zealand that can achieve scale, generate new export earnings, and create employment in regional New Zealand. Collaboration will ensure the efficient use of our time and resources to achieve this.
The three year research project was begun in July 2013 with trials being undertaken by Ernslaw One in their southern forest ponds to develop ‘practical solutions’ for aspects such as pond design, refuge creation, stocking densities, male to female ratios, animal health management, and water quality requirements.
Otago and Southland Forests
Earnslaw One Ltd
University of Otago
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Otago Fish and Game
The Rocks Station
Clutha District Council
Ministry of Primary Industries – Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF)