Current coastal projects

Ipipiri ecological survey

Northland Regional Council (NRC) supports the ‘Ipipiri ecological survey’ – a project developed by local researchers, Ngati Kuta and NIWA, to survey the ecology of the semi-sheltered waters located between the central islands of the eastern Bay of Islands and the Rāwhiti channel. The area is thought to contain some of Northland’s best-known examples of algae turf beds, subtidal seagrass and rhodolith beds.

Drop cameras, under water video, drones, and multibeam echosounders were used to survey the area. Extensive beds of turf algae have been identified around the islands, extending to depths of 12 metres.

Analysis of the images is ongoing, with a habitat map of the area to be created.

Stormwater plastic project

Plastic is one of the biggest pollutants of our oceans and can have damaging, or even lethal effects on animals that ingest it or get entangled in it. Plastic also affects the aesthetics and amenity value of our coast.

To estimate how much plastic and litter is reaching our rivers and estuaries each year, we have teamed up with NorthTec, Whitebait Connection, Whangārei District Council, Far North District Council, Kaipara District Council and Northland District Health Board to install ‘Litta Traps’.

The traps are simple cost-effective nets that fit inside stormwater grates to trap plastic and litter pollution that would otherwise be carried by stormwater straight to the sea. We have installed 50 traps at a variety of locations across the region (including playgrounds, car parks, supermarkets, fast food premises, and industrial sites).

NorthTec will audit the contents of the traps every three months to identify high risk land uses and estimate how much plastic gets washed into the sea. This information will help us to develop targeted mitigation and education resources.

An installed LittaTrap.

An installed LittaTrap.

Litter on a stormwater grate.

Litter on a stormwater grate.

Microplastic survey

Local iwi and NRC have teamed-up with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) and Scion to find out more about microplastic contamination in Northland.

This research is part of a national project ‘Aotearoa Impacts and Mitigation of Microplastics Project’, which aims to collect baseline data about the levels of microplastics in different environments to help us better understand the risks that they pose – from ecosystem health to primary industry.

Microplastics are small fragments of plastic less than 5mm in size and are created due to physical and biological degradation of larger plastic items, such as plastic bottles and cigarette butts. These microplastics are incredibly harmful to the environment – entering the marine environment from sewage effluent, stormwater, land run off and marine based activities.

Studies show that these microplastics have been found in a variety of marine organisms such as fish-eating birds, marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates. Kaitiaki and NRC staff have collected samples of sand from ten beaches across Northland and will collect shellfish samples and water column samples over the next 12 months for analysis by Scion. The results of this project will provide valuable baseline information about the extent of microplastic contamination in our precious marine environment.

Read the report: "Microplastic contamination in Te Tai Tokerau-Northland (Aotearoa-New Zealand) beach sediments".

Transect lines on the beach show the survey area, with collected microplastics (inset).

Transect lines on the beach show the survey area, with collected microplastics (inset).