Protecting and restoring the Hauraki Gulf

Join us on a mission to restore the mauri, the life-giving essence of the Hauraki Gulf (Tikapa Moana or Te Moana-nui-a-Toi)*.

About our Gulf project

On a beautiful sunny day, with the sea blue and glistening, not much looks wrong with our Gulf. But, below that shimmering surface, things aren’t what they used to be. Pollution flowing from the land and activities on and under the water are making it sick. SBN is bringing business people together from across the region to help reverse the degradation of this national taonga.  

We take a multi-pronged approach. It builds on SBN’s more than 15 years of working with business on sustainability. It embraces the Network’s current work on the low carbon circular economy through SBN’s Circular Economy Accelerator. It also includes the work of SBN’s Million Metres Streams’ project in the region, replanting native plants and trees along our waterways.

The initial aims of our work
  • keeping plastic from our harbour waters. This will be achieved by reduction, recycling and redesign. It will also be specifically targeted with the promotion of storm water drain litter traps to keep rubbish from entering the sea.
  • tackling heavy metal pollution, particularly through transport. This will be achieved by accelerating the shift to smarter transport solutions. It will be specifically targeted by exploring how to reduce the copper content of brake pads for commercial vehicle fleets.
  • restoring native bush to the region’s waterways. This will be done by continuing to extend the work of Million Metres Streams projects across the waterways feeding the Gulf.

SBN is reaching out to business partners and organisations all over the region to collaborate on further innovations and practical actions.

A word from our CEO

Rachel Brown is SBN’s found and CEO

“We believe the first right of Tikapa Moana, the Hauraki Gulf, is to be healthy and whole in itself. The second right is for the Gulf, its catchments and its inhabitants, all of us, to be healthy. When the water is healthy, so are we.

“We need to restore the mauri, or life essence, of the Gulf back to its healthy state when it is once again buzzing with life. Together we have to re-establish a much more respectful, indeed a healthier relationship with nature.

“In the coming years we will be supporting our members and other pioneering business people to take play their part in this new wave of action. We know many of our network are keen to play a positive role in the way we live and work so our waterways, our oceans that surround and define us, improve.”

What we are targeting

Gulf under threat

The problem – It is 20 years since the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, New Zealand’s largest national park, was established. The State of our Gulf 2020 report shows that, although some good work has been done, the Gulf is under serious stress due to overfishing, sedimentation, climate change and the emerging threat of plastic pollution. Marine mammals, fish and sea bird species are dwindling in numbers, or are not returning. Entire areas of the Gulf are losing the life they have known for millennia. 

The solution – We need much better, integrated management of the activities in the gulf, and those happening on the land which drains into it. Responsible fishing and care when on the water, combined with behaviours which reduce the flow of sediment and pollution from the land. We all have a role to play to restore the Gulf to the vibrant condition we all want.

State of our Gulf 2020 report


The problem – As we have cleared land for development, the associated earthworks and erosion of stream banks have resulted in thousands and thousands of tonnes of soil entering our waterways and into the gulf. Over time, the soil particles settle as a sediment layer in our harbours. It smothers the habitat of shellfish and other aquatic creatures. Vast areas become severely degraded, with invasive monocultures or barren areas often replacing a diverse mix of marine life. One effect is fewer of the fish we like to catch and eat.

The solution – Minimising soil disturbance and controlling soil loss from building sites, and other exposed land, is critical. Another key measure is to make sure our stream and river banks are lined by trees and shrubs. These help to trap sediment, and other pollutants, before they enter the waterway. Projects like SBN’s Million Metres Streams are supporting this critical work.


The problem – As rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them, plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues. Plastic litter (like food wrappers and cigarette butts) dropped on the footpaths, streets and walkways is swept up in rain water and makes it’s way to our Hauraki Gulf, often with no filtration!

The solution – Keeping plastic from our Hauraki Gulf. This will be achieved by reduction, recycling and redesign. SBN is tackling the plastic packaging issue head on, check out our work here! It will also be specifically targeted with the promotion of stormwater drain litter traps to keep rubbish from entering the sea.

Transport (toxic metals)

The problem – Our road vehicles have copper in brake pads and zinc in tyres. As we drive and brake, tiny fragments erode away. They settle on our roads and await the next downpour which flushes them into the nearest stormwater drain and waterway. Other sources are copper from anti-foul paint on boats and zinc from galvanized steel roofs. In low volumes this isn’t a problem, but both copper and zinc are toxic at elevated levels. Marine life is affected, especially those creatures living in sediment, where much of it settles.

The solution – There are many things we can do here. Probably the best is to use the car less, and walk, scoot, cycle or use public transport instead. When your car needs its brake pads changing, ask for low copper ones – they are available in NZ. In the meantime, go easy on the braking – that’ll help with the zinc run-off too.

How to get involved

  • Help reduce pollution from the land. There are many practical ways to do this, from installing litter traps in drains, to using low copper brake pads in vehicles,or cutting down on car use. Check out ideas on our Take Action page.
  • Join SBN’s Plastic Packaging Innovation Programme. This will tackle plastics pollution at source, before it reaches our oceans. Do you work for a business that produces or uses significant amounts of plastic packaging? This is your chance to work collaboratively with experts on reduction, redesign and recycling.  
  • Donate to, volunteer for or partner with one of the region’s Million Metres community-led riparian planting projects. Restoring native bush along waterways can reduce pollution flowing into the Gulf.
  • Talk to us about your pioneering solution for the Gulf or how you would like to help – everything from changes in transport to restoring natural ecology. We want to hear from you!

This project will initially run for three years. Its first phase will culminate in time for the 2021 Americas Cup and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting of world leaders.

Find out more

For more information, check out our Take Action page here.

For more information email

*In one Hauraki tradition, Tikapa Moana takes its name from Gannet Rock, northwest of Waiheke Island. Tikapa means ‘sound of mournful sobbing’ referring to the ebb and flow of the tide around this rock. It was here that early Maori performed rituals and ceremonies to claim the land when they first arrived in Aotearoa. Te-Moanaui-a-Toi or ‘The great ocean of Toi’ refers to the early Polyneasian explorer and navigator.

This project received funding from Gulf Innovation Fund Together (G.I.F.T) – a Foundation North initiative