Te Aupōuri making waves in Green-lipped Mussel industry

By Tumamao Harawira

Te Aupōuri is a relative newcomer to an aquaculture industry worth $1.6b a year to the New Zealand economy and, by 2035, it's expected to be worth over $3 billion each year.

The iwi has taken over an 11-hectare mussel farm in Houhora, north of Kaitāia, following the return of the farm from a previous lessee.

The farm is a result of the Treaty settlement Te Aupōuri signed in 2012 and then subsequently leased in 2018. In 2022, the iwi negotiated its return.

Te Aupōuri Commercial Development operations manager Penetauī Kleskovic says the mussel industry is huge.

"According to the experts in this field, companies involved in the Mussel industry are worth around $650 million."

Te Aupōuri get into mussel farming.

"We begin by gathering the juvenile Kūtai from our whanaunga at Ninety Mile Beach. We then bring them over here and attach them to ropes for about one or two years until they are strong."

The Far North is perfect for growing mussels, with Houhora, on the east coast, not even an hour's drive from Ninety Mile on the west. That means the often difficult process of transplanting Mussels has less of an impact.

The mussels are then transported to other regions like Te Whakatōhea to finish the growing process. Te Aupōuri is looking to expand its operation with the help of other industry heavyweights.

Te Aupōuri Trust Board member Tipene Kapa-Kingi, says it's imperative the iwi learn from those who have been there.

"We need to establish relationships with those who have the knowledge, like Westpac and Te Whakatōhea who have done this for a long time."

"We are sick of seeing Pākehā companies with fat pockets because they come here and to Ninety Mile Beach to take juvenile mussels, which they take back to their farms."