Another significant mussel spat fall landed on the beach at Ahipara, at the southern end of Te Oneroa a Tōhē, last month, but this time it was collected without using machinery.

Commercial spat harvesting is legal, and has been happening on 90 Mile Beach since 1978, but the scale of the operation took some locals by surprise when a video was posted on social media last month showing eight loaders in the surf, scooping up seaweed and tipping it into trucks and trailers parked on the sand.

The video sparked an outcry about the potential effects on toheroa and tuatua beds, and raised questions about whether the industry was sufficiently monitored.

When the harvesters arrived this time they were met by Ahipara kaitiaki Patau Te Pania, who told them his hapū did not want to stop them collecting spat but would not compromise about the use of heavy machinery on the beach. After some discussion the collectors agreed to harvest by hand and leave their trucks and loaders parked further up the beach.


Some were already collecting by hand, which Mr Te Pania commended.

"For us it's about respecting our foreshore and seabed and keeping with sustainable practices that preserve our taonga and moana. We're not going to allow all that machinery to come down onto the beach any more," he said.

"This has always been our pātaka kai, our food basket. And the practice has a huge impact across Te Oneroa Tōhē."

The agreement had been reached amicably, and was a positive result, Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi said.

"We stand by our hapū in their decision to make a stand on this issue and will continue working with industry and iwi representatives to establish acceptable industry standards of practice in our rohe," he said.

Mussel spat harvesting is covered by the quota management system and a code of conduct set by Aquaculture New Zealand, which requires harvesters to avoid toheroa and tuatua beds, limit time on the beach, avoid areas of high public and cultural importance, and ensure all machinery is well serviced and not leaking fuel or oil.

Ninety Mile Beach provides 75 per cent of the spat for New Zealand mussel farms.

A new Te Oneroa a Tōhē Governance Board, set up as part of the Te Hiku Treaty settlement process, is currently developing a management plan for the beach which may include rules for commercial activities.


Hapū have asked that collectors no longer use mechanical harvesting methods south of Waipapakauri.