The Waitematā harbour was once host to enormous seagrass (Zostera) beds which played a crucial role in providing habitat for juvenile fish. However the extensive harbour works, including port development and reclamations, had considerably reduced the seagrass beds by the 1930s. Then the remaining areas were virtually wiped out during the 1940s by an outbreak of fungal slime.
The Tāmaki Strait was also an area with hosted seagrass beds. The steam trawler Doto, chartered by the government to do exploratory trawling in the Hauraki Gulf during 1901, found a net they hauled up after trawling along the Tāmaki Strait full of ‘grass and weeds’, indicating the extensive seagrass beds in the area.
A major cause of seagrass loss is sediment from land development washing into the sea. When the health of a harbour or estuary deteriorates, seagrass is one of the first things to be lost. And with the seagrass beds goes part of the ability of the marine system to produce fish.
“If the sub tidal seagrass is lost, then juvenile fish production goes with it. It has a cascade effect.”
One of the few places with remaining seagrass beds in the Gulf is Huruhi Harbour at Great Mercury Island.
The development of port infrastructure on Auckland’s waterfront has been underway since 1851. The shores in front of the CBD were initially very tidal and this made loading and unloading cargo difficult.
By 1859 work had start reclaiming Commercial Bay in an ongoing process of reclamation which is still going today. A list of the reclamations, their dates of construction and sizes is shown below.
More recently proposals for ongoing port development into the Waitemata Harbour by Ports of Auckland have prompted protests and an investigation into other options by the Port Future Study. Options canvassed include constraining the port to its current footprint, allowing further growth or potentially moving the port to the Manuaku harbour, Firth of Thames or Muriwai.
Reclamations in Downtown Auckland
Commercial Bay between Fort St and Customs St
Hardinge St to Patterson St
Queen St to Albert St
Nelson St to Hardinge St
Albert St to Nelson St
Graving dock site at bottom of Hobson St
1879 – 86
Queen St to Britomart Pt (railway station)
Cool store and power station site
Freemans Bay Victoria Park
St Georges Bay
Northern wharf and approaches
St Georges Bay
Hobson St city Markets
Graving dock site
St Georges Bay
East of power station
Eastern reclamation No 1
Princes wharf approaches
Eastern reclamation No 2
Eastern vehicular landing
Viaduct basin Nelson St
Bledisloe wharf approach
East of Kings wharf
Western viaduct basin, Pakenham St
Jellicoe wharf approach
Harbour bridge reclamation
Base of Freyberg wharf
1969 – 73
1970 – 75
1980 – 83
Bledisloe Stage 2
1989 – 90
Fishermans Wharf (Viaduct Basin)
2000 – 05
Fergusson Extension Stage 1
Fergusson Extension Stage 2 (ongoing)
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