The creation of a real-time health monitoring system of Ahuriri's marine environment is under way as part of a new Marine Cultural Health Programme and is the first of its kind in Aotearoa.
The aim of the monitoring system is to get a full understanding of the state and health of the area's marine life and act on it.
With Ahuriri mana whenua working alongside Napier Port and the 6 Wharf development, the monitoring system will present an overall condition score of specific kaimoana (seafood species) including green-lipped mussels and crayfish.
Napier Port's pou tikanga and programme manager for MCHP, Te Kaha Hawaikirangi, said they know the marine area is not in the best health.
"We know this from kōrero from our parents and grandparents, the water quality and the state of the marine environment are not as it was one or two generations ago," he said.
"From that perspective it's deteriorating."
The area contains taonga of cultural value for hapū and is the home of Pānia Reef and Moremore Mataitai Reserve at Tangoio.
Pānia Reef is also an important site for gathering kaimoana as a designated mahinga mātaitai (customary fishing site).
Within the programme is a cultural monitoring framework that brings data from multiple sources to establish the overall health of the marine environment.
From this monitoring there will be live online updates on the MCHP website about the state of the different species and their habitat across the Ahuriri area.
To determine the health of the likes of green lipped-mussels, Hawaikirangi said they have to look at a combination of qualitative and quantitative data.
"The qualitative side is where we go out and ask whānau if it was easy to collect mussels - is it difficult because it's always dirty? Or are the paralytic algal blooms are out? What's the size of the beds?" he said.
From the information gathered through those questions, the programme manager said they have a scoring method, and those scores are then plugged into the framework which will help to give a picture of the health of kaimoana.
Regarding the partnership of mana whenua and Napier Port, Hawaikirangi said people would be hard-pressed to find another partnership or initiative like this in New Zealand.
"I haven't seen any programmes as extensive with the digital online platform that displays results in a really quick fashion," he said.
Napier Port has invested in a large body of scientific research into Hawke's Bay's marine environment to ensure the 6 Wharf project is aligned with long-term sustainable goals.
Napier Port chief executive Todd Dawson said they are building 6 Wharf to support the growth of the region.
"Since we first started planning our new wharf several years ago, we have made it a priority to understand the needs of our communities and shape the project accordingly," Dawson said.