Turning sea lettuce problem into a garden gift

Turning sea lettuce problem into a garden gift

With an El Niño in force this summer, gardeners and growers are concerned about the health of their crops on land.

But in some places, what's growing under the water can be just as much of a problem.

3 News went to Tauranga to find out what they're doing with tonnes of rotting sea lettuce.

Sea lettuce is green, stinky and found all over Tauranga Harbour, and it's really no joke.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is cleaning it up, but in the current El Niño conditions, more of the seaweed is expected to accumulate than ever.

One theory is that persistent westerly winds blow away the warm water sitting on the surface, allowing cooler oceanic water to come in.

"That oceanic water often is enriched with nutrients," says the Council's Tauranga Harbour Projects manager Bruce Gardner.

When all that seaweed dries in the long hot summer days, you've got one seriously stinky problem. Mr Gardner also oversees rubbish clean-ups in the harbour, but he says the sea lettuce is far "grosser" to clean up.

So far this season the council has collected 450 tonnes of the rotting seaweed. That's roughly equivalent to 19 full school buses, and that could be just the beginning.

That's because Bay of Plenty has been dealing with this for so long that the regional council has come up with a positive solution for a foul problem. The sea lettuce is dried and combined with other garden waste at an organic fertiliser plant to make compost – from a steaming pile of seaweed to a much more useful pile of dirt.

Perhaps the El Niño conditions won't be all bad for the garden.

3 News