Residents glad sea lettuce cleaned up

By Joseph Aldridge

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Offensive odours from Tauranga's harbourside suburbs have heralded the beginning of another summer of sea lettuce infestations.

Sea lettuce grows prolifically during El Nino weather patterns (such as this year) and commonly washes ashore inside the Tauranga harbour where it collects on the foreshore and rots. The algae's high sulphur content causes it to let off a particularly offensive smell.

Readers on bayofplentytimes.co.nz have remarked on the bad smells around the Avenues, Fraser Cove and Welcome Bay areas recently.

"Around near where Hairini is ... where Bayshore Hot Pools used to be, it reeks!!!!!" Michael Lancaster said.

"Certainly does stink especially on hot days - not nice - smells like silage," Gill Watson said.

Tauranga City Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council have budgeted $80,000 to pay for the rotting sea lettuce to be scooped up and taken away.

A city council spokesman said a complaint normally triggered clean-ups.

So far this season, the council has received five complaints from Matua residents and conducted two clean-ups. During the most recent clean-up this week, foreshore areas between Fergusson Park and Kulim Park were scraped and more than 100 tonnes of sea lettuce removed.

Rose Algie, who lives at Kulim Ave's far western end, said she was grateful the council was removing the seaweed. "In October, it was particularly bad and it actually smelt the whole house out and we had visitors and I remember being quite conscious of it."

Another Kulim Ave resident said some days the smell was "dreadful".

"It's revolting, but it depends on the heat and which way the wind is blowing."

Regional council Tauranga Harbour programme co-ordinator Bruce Gardner said sea lettuce grew rapidly at this time of year and as a result large amounts could build up on a beach within a couple of days. "We are keeping a close eye on all of the usual build-up spots and our clean-up contractor is ready to act at short notice.

"We have carried out a preliminary trial with a screw press, to see whether we can reduce the volume and weight of sea lettuce to reduce cartage costs.

"We are also running a home garden mulching trial. This trial will continue right through to the end of summer and results are expected to be available in about July 2013."

Last year, 300 tonnes were collected, but 1187 tonnes were collected over the 2010/11 summer and 2815 tonnes over the 2009/10 summer.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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