• Summary

Strategically launching a rimurimu/seaweed sector 

This impact case study demonstrates the role Sustainable Seas research has played in understanding the current sector in Aotearoa New Zealand, and identifying what could help it grow (August 2022)

Aotearoa has a fledgling seaweed sector operating at small scale. Developing it (from wild-harvest and aquaculture through to processing and product development) is of significant interest to Government, industry, Māori, and communities. If approached using ecosystem-based management (EBM), it could help transition Aotearoa to a blue economy.  

 Strategic development increases the likelihood of an inclusive, equitable, thriving sector that maximises environmental, cultural and social benefits (eg ecosystem services) and generates economic opportunities (eg innovative products, restorative economies).  

 Our Building a seaweed sector project is working with iwi, stakeholders, industry, researchers, and government agencies that operate (or plan to) in the sector to co-develop a strategic Seaweed Sector Framework grounded in EBM principles. To move forward efficiently, the sector needs to know where we’re starting from and what action is required. The research team conducted a comprehensive review of the domestic and international contexts and critical factors, with clear recommendations to overcome barriers and realise opportunities.  

 It’s not just what you say…  

End-user awareness, buy-in and uptake of the findings is high, due to the team’s strong focus on ensuring outputs are fit-for-purpose through:  

The impact of our research:

 The project provided a non-partisan space and purposefully involved iwi interested in seaweed, resulting in a diversity of contributors, thought and kōrero. The outcome is a balanced, holistic view of what a thriving sustainable sector could look like, and a pathway to getting there.  

The review provided recommendations regarding regulation, research, leadership, Te Tiriti, environment, business models/investment, workforce, and brand/IP. These were positively received by the sector.    

  • Government   
  • Māori  
    • Māori businesses and iwi entities were active in providing input and feedback on the sector review indicating industry interest and buy-in; Andy Elliot (Wakatū) was so engaged the team recognised him as a co-author on part 1.  
    • 2 Māori businesses and 6 iwi entities contributed to the draft framework (Figure 2).  
    • The research was discussed at the Smart Māori Aquaculture hui in June 2022.   
  • Business  
    • Recommendation from the sector review for establishing a sector ‘voice’  
    • Welcomed by the Southland Aquaculture Group (unconnected to the research).  
    • Been met with the launch of the Aotearoa New Zealand Seaweed Association (ANZSA) in April 2022, enabling industry and government agencies to have strategic dialogue towards regulatory change.  
    • ANZSA’s website contains multiple citations and links to the review’s reports and infographics, and Board Member Hayley Fraser-Mackenzie (MD of Pacific Harvest) commented:  
      “The revie
    • w was a crucial first step to map our complex environment, and help us see a way through the challenges. It gives context, outlines priorities, and explains opportunities and challenges. Seaweed has fallen through the cracks previously; without this work we would not have had a starting point.”  
  • Internationally  
  • Public – The clear recommendations, industry buy-in (further evidenced by supportive quotes in our media release), and infographics have raised public awareness of the contribution that seaweed could make to our communities and transition to a blue economy via:  
Gathering momentum  

The sector framework – a strategic roadmap for the sector – is being co-developed and tested on business case studies, with expected publication in December 2022.   


Rob Major [email protected]  

Project organisations  

Cawthron, EnviroStrat, University of Waikato, Wakatū