By Keith Miller
People have mixed feelings about the Manukau Harbour. It’s been the dumping ground for urban runoff and poorly treated wastewater, and the installation of a line of pylons showed no regard for the natural beauty of the harbour’s northern shores.
The interest in recreational fishing around Blockhouse Bay has also varied. There’s a 1957 aerial photograph of Blockhouse Bay that shows dozens of moored launches and dinghies. That was probably the peak period for recreational fishing, as after that overfishing and a reduction in water quality saw fish numbers plummet. However, improvements to the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant that were completed in 2005 and better management of fish stocks mean it is again well worth getting out on the water to catch dinner.
Water testing by Auckland Council has shown that quality around Blockhouse Bay is generally good, with the exception being in the 24 hours following heavy rain. The advantage the Manukau has is that it’s shallow and has a big tidal range, so twice daily there are big inflows of clean Tasman Sea water that flush out any contaminants.
An easy and relatively cheap way to get onto the water is by kayak. Kayak fishing has been a growing sport for the past two decades, and that’s reflected in the growing numbers of kayaks now seen in the Bay when wind and tide conditions are good. Kayaks are preferred here as they are easy to launch and can quietly get into position in shallow areas without scaring the fish.
Over summer and early autumn snapper dominate the harbour. Schools of them feed on the mudflats as the tide comes in and the fishing tends to be fast and furious. Many of them are undersize though, and on some days you might catch ten and put nine back. It’s a good idea to file the barbs off hooks to make it easier to release these fish. There are also large snapper around though, with a nice 57 cm fish being caught in the Bay in the past two weeks by my young neighbour, Connor McKeating.
Other fish include kahawai, trevally, and the odd kingfish. Gurnard are common further down the harbour but don’t seem to venture into the Bay. There are also some large stingrays around that are a challenge when hooked. They are not something you want on a kayak, so best practice is to reel in as much line as possible and cut them loose.
Fresh baits such as pilchards give better results than softbaits or other lures, probably because of the sediment in the water that reduces visibility. Fish can be caught in just a couple of metres of water over the mudflats or in the deeper channels. Kahawai will also take a lure trolled behind the kayak.
And even if you come back with nothing, it’s nice to just get out on the water and enjoy the coastal views and wildlife.
Connor caught his huge fish off his back yard from a long line which he kayaked out into the bay. He had lots of fun bringing it in! Later it was pan fried with flour, egg and wasabi mayo, and shared with several people. Delicious!
Connor is a pupil at Blockhouse Bay Intermediate and is passionate about fishing, the environment, and our native birds. He has been fishing and boating since he was in preschool.
He is also passionate about predator trapping and is a member of the Coastal Pirates trapping group with his dad, registered with Predator Free NZ and he is a member of Forest and Bird.
What did you do during lockdown? Lots of organising of my house, exercising etc. Had quality time with husband. Lots of cooking and baking things I wouldn’t normally do (cos I had yeast and flour!) I took time to reflect on the business a little, but didn’t dwell. It is what it is, we will come out the other side, but for now let’s make the most of the time we have together. But by week three I was a bit over it.
What have you learned about yourself? Maybe I work too much and need to find more balance in my life. I thought about this a lot. Not “Is it worth it”, but more “Life is not all about work”. Other aspects of my life are equally important, and it took the business shutting down to see that. At the end of the year I always take time to reflect, but in lockdown there were no distractions; I couldn’t go anywhere, there was nothing that pulled me away from ‘right here and now’. I did quite like that in a sense.
What have you learned about your business, and what will you do differently? When you’re in the daily grind you don’t realise how much the business has grown. From where we started to where we are now is like “Wow!” I’ve realised how much we have grown into a multi-faceted business, and how we can simply change which facets we promote for now.
For instance, there won’t be as much demand for catering, but we can promote our frozen meals, and find new markets for them. And because we have to take out tables the café won’t be the strongest part of the business. Some clientele – particularly the elderly - may also be quite nervous about coming to the café as they have in the past. So, we are looking at diversifying to create more business outside our physical premises, such as fresh dinners.
Our main goal as a business is to keep everyone employed and hopefully growing a bit as well. I’m really hopeful for the future. I believe that the community will come back and support us and other local businesses.
What did you do during lockdown? We took the opportunity to accomplish a big job of rearranging the grocery area – a three-to-four-day job which we couldn’t do during opening hours. We came in every second day, cleaning, rearranging etc.
We had permission from the MPI to open as we are a mini supermarket carrying grocery items, but we made the decision not to open out of concern for the safety of staff and family. We were one of only two Fruitworld shops that closed in level 4.
The rest of lockdown we spent time with our kids and elderly parents (who live with us) – we had a very good time of family bonding. It was quite different to going on holiday.
When we returned to level 3 we saw that the case numbers had reduced a lot so we thought ‘now we can open, it’s not too risky’. We just felt responsible for our staff and their families; the virus is deadly, and just not worth the extra dollar.
What effect has the lockdown had on your business? It’s the nature of the fruit and veggie game; you’ve got to be on your toes, you can lose a lot of money with perishables. Going into level 4 we sold everything off cheaply, and gave the rest away. We lost thousands, but over time we will get back to where we were. We are very fortunate that we are not out of business.
We have some commercial properties and gave our tenants free rent, regardless of their circumstances. Unfortunately, we did not receive rent relief ourselves, but everyone’s different.
Will you change your business model as a result of the lockdown? Fruitworld is setting up an online purchasing system. But I encourage our customers to “look, feel and buy”. No-one chooses produce like you do.
Our business model won’t change much though. We choose quality over price, and send shipments back to the depot if they are not good enough. We believe that buying the best quality produce is an investment in your health. Produce is seasonal and subject to weather. Growers spend months growing fruit and veggies which can be wiped out overnight. That creates supply issues, and a lot of people don’t factor that in when prices go up.
What have you learned about yourself and your business, and what will you do differently? We’ve been in business 18 years, and we work seven days. We are on our feet all the time, so it was really nice to have a break. The weeks of lock down were really valuable. Komal and I have decided that we will rearrange the business so that we spend less time here at work, and more time with family. We have always had a passion for ensuring customers have the best fresh produce experience, but now we realise that we haven’t allowed enough time with family and friends. We intend to change that in the months and years ahead.