Paua farm joins burgeoning industry

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
22 February 2007, at 12:00am

NEW ZEALAND - Its black muscular foot is considered a delicacy and is extremely valuable in Asian circles.

It is central to some of the best oriental seafood recipes and some chefs say it’s best served raw in sushi . . . although Maori prefer it creamed with a piece of fried bread.

But cooking skills don’t matter in this game.

It won’t be the recipes of Gisborne’s Marc Ferris put to the test once the new land-based paua hatchery at Turanga Ararau is up and running.

It is his experience and knowledge as a marine scientist that’s of value, as demand for paua becomes increasingly strong.

"Aquaculture is the fastest-growing primary industry sector in New Zealand and around the world, and I’m definitely excited about it. It is the way of the future," he said.

Getting wet for a paua could be a thing of the past and Turanga Ararau has boarded the ship in what could potentially be a multimillion-dollar industry.

What used to be an old Telecom work shed in Kahutia Street will be a 350 sq metre paua farm. The two buildings will house a wet lab, water storage room, pumping room, brood stock room, spawning room, nursery and larval swimming tanks.

"Aquaculture is an expensive thing to do in New Zealand and is solely for commercial benefit. It’s a high-risk, high-gain thing. It takes three years before you see a return on your money."

"What we’re doing here is a commercial venture as well as educational, but it is kind of a model for iwi because we’re an iwi-owned facility. It will be a place where people can go and see how its done," he said.

Plans for the hatchery started in 2005 with funding provided by Te Puni Kokiri, The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, and Te Runanga o Ngati Porou.

Most materials used were either bought cheap or recycled.

"We pulled down two crayfish holding facilities and brought them here, and used the old freezer panels on the inside of the building to keep the nursery cool."

"We bought 14 V-tanks for $1000 each, which are specially made for the nursery stages for paua culture. They came from a guy in Napier who couldn’t get his hatchery working. They would have cost $2500 brand new."

"You can save money doing things a certain way but some people spend a lot doing things the wrong way. I made quite a lot of the equipment myself. There are corners you can cut financially but sometimes you can’t, so you have to pay the money in those areas," he said.

But the cost of building the hatchery is only one of many barriers.

Being a "blue sky industry," as Mr Ferris describes it, a lot of trial and error is involved.