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Autumn Newsletter

It’s fair to say that many of us are wondering where the first couple of months of the year have gone. With an El Niño weather pattern and raising fuel prices again, coupled with the aftermath of weather events still impacting some of our fishers and marine farmers – it feels like 2024 has started with its share of challenges.

And the same applies to FirstMate. As a charity dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of fishers, marine farmers and their whānau, we plan to be around for a very long time. Having Navigators in just about every port in New Zealand and available to all people who work in the sector is vital. The Navigators’ knowledge and understanding of the sector is the backbone to why FirstMate can be so effective. We understand our fishers and marine farmers and we can connect them to services they may need to access.

This was never more apparent than when we were awarded Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) North Island Adverse Event funding that enabled three dedicated Adverse Event Navigators (AENs) to be in-situ in the cyclone Gabrielle impacted regions from August to December 2023. We’ve recently evaluated this project and were able to showcase that having dedicated wellbeing support to those that work in our sector impacted by a significant event meant a huge amount to them. Read more about the project below.

The next two months will be crucial for FirstMate as we firm up our funding support that will allow us to continue to offer our charitable services to fishers, marine farmers and their whānau. And I look forward to sharing good news with you soon.

What’s been happening

The cyclone has a long tail

Cyclone Gabrielle, which hit Northland, Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay in early 2023 had a significant impact on the fishers and marine farmers in that area. FirstMate secured funding from August to December 2023 to deploy AENs to connect with the community to understand and address the immediate and long-term needs of affected communities.

This initiative, aimed at supporting fishers, marine farmers and their whānau, reflects our commitment to providing vital assistance during challenging times.

Thanks to our three Adverse Event Navigators: Zak Olsen, Dave Wakefield, and Vicky Hunt, nine community events were held in the three regions, connecting with more than 200 fishers, marine farmers, and sector stakeholders. These events were really positive, and feedback showed they boosted community support and awareness, highlighting the importance of local initiatives in building resilience and solidarity among those impacted.

Listening to those at the events helped highlight the key stressors impacting them, including debris, sediment runoff, travel issues, and concerns about regulatory changes and costs. These insights helped the team provide wellbeing support, connecting with fishers and marine farmers, offering assistance, and fostering valuable relationships. These efforts contributed to the overall resilience and wellbeing of affected communities.

FirstMate was also tasked with raising awareness of the impacts on fishers of the cyclone, through the media, digital campaigns, and newsletters.

And finally, FirstMate created seafood sector targeted Business Continuity and Preparedness Plan templates, that business owners or families can complete easily to help them be as prepared as possible for future events.

The final project report to MPI outlines several recommendations for the regions, including having help on the ground for fishers and marine farmers as quickly as possible after future adverse events to support affected communities.

In conclusion, the report highlights how successful and impactful the initiative has been in providing support to fishing and marine farming communities. The recommendations pave the way for future resilience and proactive engagement in the face of adverse events, ensuring continued support for those affected.

On behalf of all fishers, marine farmers and their whānau, we wish to thank the Ministry for Primary Industries for their generous funding support that enabled this project to take place.

New resources

Business Continuity Resources

The best approach to dealing with a disaster is to take proactive measures before it strikes. Planning and preparing ahead can make a big difference, not just for safety but also for the livelihoods of our fishers, their whānau and businesses.

FirstMate recently developed Business Continuity and Family Preparedness Plans tailored specifically for those in the commercial seafood industry.

These templates are freely available for download on the FirstMate website. Hard copies are also available from the 17 Navigators located across the country.

A recent digital campaign to promote the resources through January 2024, generated positive engagement, with an impressive reach of 92.1k on Facebook and Instagram, and accumulating more than 41k impressions on LinkedIn. With more time and further promotion through sector partners, we anticipate these resources will become widely adopted within our fishing and marine farming communities.

Upcoming Events

Join us at these two key events across the South Island in the upcoming months. We’d love to meet you! Come by and say hello.

Seafood Saturday

Come along to Nelson’s Upper Trafalgar Street on Saturday 9 March to celebrate New Zealand's seafood industry. With food carts, live entertainment, kids activities, an opportunity to get onboard a retired fishing vessel, and even free fish & chips (if you get in quick), there’s something for the entire family. Join the FirstMate team stationed just outside the museum, at the event's community zone. We've prepared a variety of fun games for families to enjoy together, from decorating mussel shells to colouring-in activities and crosswords. Swing by to say hello and unleash your creativity while scoring yourself a sweet treat.

Please keep in mind we encourage parents to accompany their children during the activities for a fun and safe experience. Seafood Saturday is centred around the celebration of our kaimoana and the kaimahi who deliver it to the community, from sea to table.

Upper Trafalgar Street will be buzzing with fishing-related festivities, from a ticketed seafood and wine experience to free family-friendly activities and delicious seafood for the kids. Grab a bite, talk to the fishers and have heaps of fun. Head to berth F08 at the Nelson Marina between 9am – 12pm to climb aboard a historic fishing boat, the Gleam. No tickets are needed for the community zone or the Gleam.


Havelock Mussel Festival

Summer in Marlborough wouldn't be complete without the Havelock Mussel & Seafood Festival. On Saturday 16 March, between 10am and 6pm, Havelock will come alive with seafood and live music at this popular annual event. Come say hi to the FirstMate team in the Industry tent. We’ll have plenty of games and competitions for families to participate in and enjoy together, from colouring-in and 'guess the jellybeans' activities to a super fun life jacket race!

There's something for everyone at this family-friendly festival. For a fun and safe experience, we kindly ask that parents accompany their children during the activities at our stall.


Thank you for continuing to support FirstMate and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to talk to someone, if you’re interested in supporting FirstMate more or if you’d just like to engage.

Nga mihi
The FirstMate team