Festival evolves to support recovery of Coromandel’s scallop beds

27 Apr 2021

One of the Coromandel’s favourite festivals is trading one seafood delicacy for many as it plays its part in a community-driven effort to protect a vulnerable species.

The 16th Whitianga Scallop Festival will become the Whitianga Oceans Festival as organisers rebrand and pivot the much-loved event to support the regeneration of local scallop beds. A rahui is already in place preventing the collection of scallops in the Opito Bay area, while consultation is underway on a request from Ngati Hei for the formal closure of most of the scallop fishery along the eastern Coromandel for a period of at least two years.

“The sustainability of scallops locally and nationally is a priority for Whitianga Scallop Festival Inc,” the festival organisers confirmed. “In observing the need for the rahui and the need to ensure the regeneration of scallops, the festival… will focus on offering a variety of seafood from New Zealand waters this year as the local scallop beds are left to rest.”

The festival branding has been evolved to recognise the scallop which sits at the heart of event and the need now to champion its cause, along with the New Zealand caught seafood that will instead be enjoyed at this year’s event, officially titled “Whitianga Oceans Festival - From Dock to Dish.” The move has the support of those leading the call to protect the scallop beds, including Ngati Hei, the Opito Bay Ratepayers Association and LegaSea.

The organisers said the format of the iconic event will be unchanged, so while the treats on the menus and in the cooking demonstrations may change, the overall flavour of the festival will remain the same. “The festival has grown into one of New Zealand’s iconic kaimoana celebrations and we do not expect that to change,” they said. “Once again, we have a great line up of celebrity chefs. The live music line-up will see seven great bands across the main stage as well as the acoustic stage. We hope our valued followers will embrace our reason for change and join us once again for what promises to be another fantastic event set against Whitianga’s stunning Harbour.”

The site for the 2021 festival on 18 September has also been altered due to construction taking place at the Whitianga Marina. The new location will be spread across Lyon Park (the Mercury Bay Rugby Club grounds) and the marina’s southern carpark reclamation area. The marina management has advised users that, in order to support this important community event, the marina boat ramp and hard stand will not be accessible on the day of the festival. However, boat owners will be able to use the Thames-Coromandel District Council boat ramp to launch and retrieve their boats.