Safeguarding the future of Tauranga Harbour

Tauranga Harbour is coming under the microscope to ensure future development in the area is sustainable.

The initiative is linked to the INTERCOAST programme between the universities of Waikato and Bremen in northern Germany, focussing on multi-disciplinary marine research in the Bay of Plenty and around the North Sea in Germany.

Both areas are dealing with rapid population increase, burgeoning commercial growth and significant recreational usage, which means that careful long term planning is critical to ensuring future harbour development is sustainable.

Heading the University of Waikato’s research efforts is Professor Chris Battershill, who has taken up the inaugural Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chair of Coastal Science in Tauranga. An expert in marine biodiversity, Professor Battershill will focus on establishing a census of marine life in and around Tauranga Harbour and the biogeography of these organisms. In addition, his research will investigate how marine organisms adapt to environmental change.

Researchers Dr Willem de Lange and Dr Karin Bryan, have begun mapping the Tauranga Harbour seabed using acoustic imagery to gather information on changes to marine habitats and sedimentary dynamics which may affect circulation of the harbour.

How marine habitats could be impacted if large amounts of sediment are removed during future harbour construction, and how the tidal system and current changes impact the seabed and channels are some of the issues under investigation.

Another project, led by Dr Vicky Moon, is using a submersible probe to measure the stability of the seabed.

The projects have been developed with input from Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Priority One and the Port of Tauranga, and will contribute to building a comprehensive picture of Tauranga Harbour and its coastline to help local planners with their decision-making.

The multidisciplinary research team will provide long-term data modelling and impact analysis from projects looking at the effects of harbour development on ecosystems, protection and utilisation of the harbour and coastline, and sediment studies.

Under the co-direction of Waikato’s Professor Chris Battershill and Bremen’s Professor Katrin Huhn, the INTERCOAST programme will also involve law and social science research into legal issues around fisheries, coastal management and marine energy resource development, as well as social changes taking place in coastal communities.