If you find yourself in Nelson and in need of a bit of inspiration, as well as the walks, the wine and the fabulous seafood, we recommend you request a visit to Moananui.

The building can be found ever so slightly east of Nelson’s Christ Church Cathedral on Trafalgar Square, but the idea of Moananui is way too big to fit in one building. 

Moananui is a partnership of like-minded businesses that are focused on the blue economy. They want to generate economic value, connect people and improve ocean health. They point out that our oceans only supply around 3% of our GDP, which seems strange, given that 96% of New Zealand’s territory is sea. The 32 partners (including Port Nelson, Sealord, New Zealand King Salmon, Ngāti Rārua, Cawthron and Beca) want to change that.

Chief Executive Jodie Kuntzsch says the idea for the cluster emerged from a 500-year plan.

“The roots of the concept are in the Te Tauihu Intergenerational Strategy, brought together in 2019 and largely led by Wakatu Incorporation. It’s a 500-year regional plan with a call to action of Tūpuna Pono – to be good ancestors.

“That plan highlights the importance of oceans and the maritime sector to the regional economy, but also the potential that the blue economy to improve our productivity and regional prosperity.”

Jodie was mentored by someone she describes as a “cluster guru”, Ifor Ffowcs-Williams, who helped her understand similar models elsewhere in the world. And from the set-up work came clear goals: to improve cashflow for the partners; give them more time to innovate; increase investor attraction and confidence; improve workforce recruitment and retention and improve value all around.

Several of the partners recently visited Tasmania to meet with potential international partners and see how blue economy work is happening in Australia. Jodie says that networking is key and Moananui isn’t just about what’s happening at the top of the South Island.

“It’s from here not for here, meaning Nelson is just a convergence point. Partners can come from anywhere and the partnership will support growth anywhere. We’ll all benefit.”

A big part of Moananui’s work is to build collaborations that raise the profile of New Zealand’s blue economy and attract investment for partners. Their work with Ocean Impact Organisation in Australia is one example. Another focus area is accelerating commercialisation of science and R&D, which was showcased at their most recent Blue Economy Innovation Summit.

It is still early days for the cluster, with only six months of operations behind them – and these things take time. But it looks to us like another example of the collaboration and cooperation our sector needs to move it forward. And Jodie says despite all the effort it’s taken to get it this far, she’s full of enthusiasm and love for the work. Why?

“Because the oceans are still a frontier, there is so much potential out there we don’t understand yet and I have a passion to seek out those who want to use the ocean to do good, to think bigger than the moment and bigger than themselves.”

Learn more about Moananui.