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'Brainy buoy' set free to assess ocean health

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand is another step closer to having a national network of coastal monitoring systems to assess the health of our ocean, following the release on Saturday of a second high-tech buoy off the coast of Hawkes Bay.

The HAWQi (Hawkes Bay Water Quality Information) buoy was designed and built by Cawthron Institute in Nelson for Hawkes Bay Regional Council (HBRC).

"We need to improve the information we collect on our coastal waters, so we know to what degree things are changing - and can plan accordingly," says Cawthron Institute senior marine scientist Paul Barter.

"We see this technology as a solution not only for HBRC, but for other councils throughout NZ that are wanting to monitor their marine environments and collect reliable, long-term coastal water quality data."

The high-tech buoy is the second of its type in New Zealand waters, with Cawthron Institute operating a similar buoy in Tasman Bay near Nelson called TASCAM. Cawthron Institute designed the buoys in collaboration with California-based Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

The buoys provide long-term, real-time data on water quality, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure and temperature. While this information is valuable for scientists and local and environmental management agencies, it is also used by aquaculture operators and even recreational fishers.

Cawthron Institute Chief Executive Professor Charles Eason says the buoys can help fill a significant gap in New Zealand’s knowledge of what is going on in the seas around us.

"Currently in New Zealand there are very limited systems monitoring even the most basic of information such as water temperature," Professor Eason says. "To properly manage our water space, and make the right decisions in the long term interests of our regions, industries and environment, we need more extensive and sophisticated monitoring technology."

Mr Barter says Cawthron Institute is working closely with other councils that are looking at using its buoy technology in their regions.

"We’re keen to work with councils throughout the country to help establish a national network of high-tech buoys all along New Zealand’s coastline so we can build an accurate picture of what’s happening in our coastal environment."

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