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What is Aquaculture?

Aquaculture (or marine farming)  is the breeding and growing of animals and plants in the water. It can take place on land or in ponds or tanks, but most aquaculture in New Zealand occurs in the sea.

The main commercial species farmed in New Zealand are green lipped mussels and pacific oysters. Green lipped mussels are grown on lines suspended from floats on the surface, while Pacific oysters are grown on intertidal racks. Other species farmed include salmon, paua, snapper and kingfish.

Aquaculture in Northland

The only species farmed in the sea in  Northland are oysters and mussels . There are approximately 700 hectares of oyster farms scattered throughout Northland's harbours.  By comparison, there are only 43 hectares of mussel farms, most of which are just north of Houhora Heads.  On land, NIWA has an aquaculture research facility at Ruakaka, Bream Bay.


Marine farm in Houhora Harbour.

What’s the Council's role?

The Northland Regional Council is responsible for administering nearly all aspects of marine farming in our region.  These include:

  • monitoring existing farms;
  • ensuring compliance with resource consent conditions;
  • granting resource consents for new marine farms; and 
  • writing the policies and rules determining where new aquaculture can and cannot go. 

Monitoring marine farms

We regularly monitor the state of marine farms throughout Northland, helicopters having been found to be the easiest and cheapest way.

Marine Farm Compliance Inspections – June 2007 (576 KB)

The Marine Farm Compliance Schedule (from the above inspections report) will help you establish if your marine farm is complying with your resource consent and the Resource Management Act in terms of structure, seabed, debris and navigational markers.

Marine Farm Compliance Schedule (539 KB)

We recently commissioned a literature review of the ecological effects of oyster farms, to assist us with prioritising our monitoring.

Review of the Ecological Effects of Intertidal Aquaculture (488 KB)

We also investigate complaints made about marine farms and the alleged effects on the environment of non-compliance with rules or consents.

Creating new aquaculture space

In late 2009 we commissioned a report to analyse the contribution aquaculture makes to the Northland economy.  It estimated that the existing aquaculture industry contributes $30 million per year and provides 465 jobs.

Download The Northland Regional Economic Impacts of Aquaculture report (422 KB) 

Further information

For more information, feel free to contact one of the following staff at the Regional Council on 0800 002 004:  

  • Ricky Eyre
    - annual charging monitoring and compliance issues
  • Paul Maxwell
    - consent, review and off-site marine farms

You can also email [email protected]

Additionally, detailed information on aquaculture in New Zealand can be found at: