New Zealand’s Natural Water Filters

As part of a new project aimed at illustrating how Māori practices can provide natural solutions to problems, ropes of green-lipped mussels have been attached to the underside of a new public space in downtown Auckland.

The project at Te Wānanga, at the ferry basin will also create an “organic link” between the city and the harbour, according to Auckland Council.

Mussels have remarkable water filtering capabilities and can act as indicators of aquatic health by filtering seawater and removing pollutants. Thirty-eight seeded mussel lines have been attached to Te Wānanga.

“Te Waitematā (Waitemata Harbour) is a taonga tuku iho (treasure handed down by our ancestors), and it should be treated as such. Unfortunately, this has not been the case historically,” said Marine scientist Dr Jarrod Walker (Ngā Puhi) who is the mana whenua technical advisor on the project.

“Today, mana whenua wish to enhance the mauri (life force) of Te Waitematā and this project has provided an opportunity to develop practices and methods grounded in mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) to move toward enhancing the health of the marine environment.”

According to project scientist, Marcus Cameron, a single mature mussel can filter up to 150 to 200 litres of seawater a day taking in phytoplankton for nourishment as well as removing pollutants.

“They effectively act as bio-indicators of aquatic health, helping us monitor for any unwanted invasive species in the water,” he said.

“Mana whenua see the use of kūtai (mussels) in this space as a step in the right direction to address both current and historic environmental issues impacting the mauri of Te Waitematā.”