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The Beginning


During 2015 MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) ran a pilot of the

platform in three areas: South Auckland, Taranaki, and Otago. 

MBIE has appointed Venture Taranaki as the pilot area lead for Taranaki. Grants of up to $20,000 were available, which are intended to partially fund a project.


As part of the Government’s National Plan for Science in Society, MBIE has funded a

‘Curious Minds’ initiative where young people, communities and scientists collaborate on

a science project. The project was launched in 2015, and Taranaki was one of the pilot

regions given funding. The pilot has been extended with additional funding to the end of

December 2016.


The South Taranaki Underwater Club was successful in both funding rounds, and applied

for funding to survey a target reef off Patea at depth of approximately 23metres – with

the aim of finding out ‘what makes the subtidal reefs of South Taranaki unique’. The

aim is to continue the study over many years.


The Project Partners include local Iwi – Te Kaahui o Rauru and Te Runanga o Ngati

Ruanui Trust, as well as the Hawera High School and Patea Area School.


The Project uses considerable voluntary time and boat use from South Taranaki

Underwater Club members.

Coverage and Connections


‘A South Taranaki Reef Project’ on Facebook shows some of the photographs and videos

taken to date – jewel anemone, carpet shark, fish, nudibranch, starfish, kina, sponges,

eels, crayfish, sea cucumbers and even a visiting Australian Magpie Perch! As at March

2017 over 25,500 video views on the Facebook page alone (as at March 2017).


The Daily News covered the Project back in June 20, with the 31 second video put

together by the Reef Project gathering over 37,000 views.


The Daily News also covered the in-situ camera built by Leith Robertson, an electrical

engineer with Wells Engineering in New Plymouth (June 23 2016).


The Wanganui Chronicle gave front page profile to the Reef Project back in September



Project members have presented to all students at the Hawera Primary School,

Kakaramea Primary School, Hawera Intermediate School, Mokoia School, Tawhiti Primary

School & Patea Area School to show photographs & video of the diversity of life at the

Project Reef. 


The Project has taken a number of sponge samples and sent them through to NIWA for

identification. About 15 species of sponge have been identified at the Project Reef.


NIWA has a number of identification guides which the Reef Project have found very

beneficial. Familiarity with the sponge guide led one of the Project Leads to notify NIWA of

a sponge found on the local beach of Ohawe, which could not be found in the guide. It

appears this is a new species, and the sponge has been donated to NIWA for scientific study

and full analysis.

The Science


Two marine scientists are involved with the Project. Thomas McElroy with a Masters in

Marine Conservation who works with TRC. Joshua Richardson who has a Masters in

Marine Science.


Four survey approaches are used plus some additional general observation work. Part

of the ‘benthic survey’ work, has resulted in the Hawera High School students developing

a ‘Species ID guide’.


a. An in-situ underwater camera survey, with a camera fixed to a mooring and the

image data analysed. Hawera High School students will assist in entering data

into iNaturalist – a public database.


b. Surveys of the density of organisms living on the reef – ‘benthic survey’


c. Hook and line surveys conducted by Hawera High School students and Patea

Area School students.


d. An acoustic survey using a hydrophone.


The ‘benthic survey’ involves a diver transect method, with the diver capturing images of

0.5m2 quadrats randomly situated around the reef. The random allocation of quadrats is

achieved through a ‘random coordinate system’ with one coordinate corresponding to a

bearing and the other coordinate corresponding to the distance along the transect line. The

survey will be replicated during the year, in an effort to capture seasonal variation in the

benthic community.


Early stage analysis (March 2017) of the hydrophone deployed at the Project Reef has

identified a humpback whale call and the ‘thunder’ of an aftershock from the large earthquake

that struck Kaikoura in November. The objective of the acoustic survey is to assess the

acoustic diversity at the Project Reef.



The Reef Project presented at Tauranga Ika Marae in 2016. Te Kaahui o Rauru is one of the

Project Partners.


An evening presentation showing photographs has been made to the local Altrusa club in



There was a display about the Reef Project at the Patea Area School’s Matariki day event

on the 22 June 2016.


The Aotea Utanganui – Museum in Patea, has had the South Taranaki Reef Life Project

photographs, videos and marine samples on stunning display for four months – December

2016 to March 2017. Feedback has been incredibly positive.


10 March 2017 both the Hawera High School, Patea Area School, marine scientists, insitu

camera engineer and Project Leads, shared the Reef Project results with invited

community members at a Workshop event held in the Museum at Patea - Aotea

Utanganui .


To date (March 17) 64 species have been identified at the Project Reef, and uploaded to a

national database ‘NatureWatch NZ’. There are still more to be uploaded from a recent


More News


Back in 2006 a DOC report identified from a community consultation process gaps in

knowledge and information about the South Taranaki marine area – see their report

‘Netting Coastal Knowledge’. This Project is helping to fill that gap.


The South Taranaki Underwater Club has been successful in a 2016 TSB Community

Trust funding round, so that a camera with adequate lighting can take video and

photographs of the Reef.


The Reef Project is hoping to work collaboratively with other groups to develop a GIS

database – which will help in sharing results as well as providing a useful tool for any future

marine planning.


The Project has joined a larger group ‘Wild for Taranaki’ which consists of about 27 groups

involved in conservation work.


Armed with a greater wealth of knowledge the South Taranaki Underwater Club are working

with the Taranaki Regional Council, to have the Project Reef recognised as having

outstanding value in their Coastal Plan, which is presently under review (March 2017).


We are so proud to have won the a Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Award

in 2016.


Here’s to an even more enlightening future.