New Zealand King Salmon is a significant part of the Top of the South community, and one group charged with engaging with that community is the Marlborough Smart and Connected Aquaculture Harmony Group.

Marlborough’s Smart and Connected organisational template was established to reinvigorate community spirit and encourage more cohesive sector groups by improving communication between, and within, industries.

The mission statement for the Harmony group is to provide “genuine, meaningful and respectful engagement between the Marlborough community and the aquaculture industry”.

NZKS Environmental Project Manager and Harmony member Karen Mant says the group has made a lot of headway since the group began, engaging with the community as well as with industry members to promote sustainable aquaculture.

“One of the most beneficial things is networking with others in the group, sharing ideas and information to gain an awareness of the aquaculture industry and achieve the common goal of sustainable aquaculture.”

Aquaculture Week

In March the group held its inaugural Aquaculture Week – involving mussels, salmon and oysters – which aimed to connect with the community and showcase Marlborough’s local aquaculture industry.

The week included a public event in central Blenheim where various aquaculture companies showcased their products with interactive displays, cooking and mussel opening demonstrations, and – of course – salmon tastings. Other related organisations like NIWA and Aquaculture NZ were also involved.

Mussel Appreciation Day (MAD) was held in the lead-up to the annual Havelock Mussel and Seafood Festival on the Friday, with public tours of local mussel processing facilities, and visits to local primary schools.

Harmony member Debbie Stone of the Marine Farming Association says Aquaculture Week was a success, with a range of activities and displays that attracted a lot of public attention, as well as media including TVNZ programme 7 Sharp.

“It was about making everybody more aware of the aquaculture industry, its contribution to Marlborough, and it fabulous products as well.”

Karen says it was important for NZKS to have a presence at the event, which included being able to answer people’s questions on any topic.“It was a great industry event, lots of the public came along and it was well received.”

Harmony group chair Hans Neilson, who also organises the Havelock Mussel and Seafood Festival, says Marlborough’s aquaculture industry is proactively putting resources and people towards driving the community engagement process, and it’s also striving to be inclusive within the aquaculture sector.

“It’s about an open attitude and a sincere attempt to engage people, and improving as an industry.”

“What sets this aside from the past, or other industries, is a real willingness on industry’s behalf to drive this forward and progress it and make it better.”

The Harmony group will hold Aquaculture Week again next year, building on the success of the first event, Hans says.

“Right from the start this was a long term thing and we’ll start to develop it and see where we can take this concept.”

Balanced Scorecard

Another community engagement initiative that is currently being developed for the Harmony group is the Balanced Scorecard. This concept is an online “dashboard” of measurable information, including environmental, labour, sponsorships etc that the public has access to.

The Scorecard will include data and metrics to do with each strand of aquaculture.

“The aim of Balanced Scorecard is about being open and transparent to the public,” says Karen.

“As an aquaculture industry we need to ensure that we can align the various measures to make metrics meaningful, clearly report the data and ensure it’s consistent over time.”

Hans says this “kernel of an idea” is beginning to take shape after a lot of work, and is almost at the stage where it can be socialised in an “open engagement process” to gauge what value the public see in it, and what can be added or changed.