Underwater virtual reality

NIWA’s work protecting the marine environment has been revealed through a collaboration with New Zealand Geographic. Using virtual reality technology, viewers are taken underwater on a biosecurity search for marine pests.

Using specialised 360˚ Virtual Reality (VR) video technology, a team from New Zealand Geographic — with funding from Foundation North and NZonAir—produced VR experiences across six sites from Niue to the Hauraki Gulf.

In these VR experiences, viewers can glide with stingrays at the Poor Knights, swim through swaying sargassum weed at the Three Kings, dive with pilot whales off the edge of the continental shelf, explore the shallows of Parengarenga Harbour, swim with humpback whales in Niue and experience our biosecurity team at work in the Hauraki Gulf.

NIWA, under contract to the Ministry for Primary Industries, carries out surveillance for introduced marine pest species in the country’s high-risk locations – ports of entry for international vessels. New Zealand Geographic approached NIWA to participate in the Hauraki Gulf segment, with NIWA divers filming their search for marine pest species in Westhaven Marina during the summer Marine High-Risk Site Surveillance (MHRSS) survey.

The lead of the biosecurity programme, Graeme Inglis, says the short MHRSS VR segment is an excellent demonstration of MPI’s and NIWA’s protection of the marine environment, with on-location commentary provided through dive comms from Principal Technician Crispin Middleton.

The project is produced in association with WWF, and The Sir Peter Blake Trust who will be visiting schools with high-quality VR headsets and curriculum connected lessons. NZ-VR production is continuing across the North Island this year and then on into South Island locations.

Take a virtual reality tour under a heavily fouled vessel in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour. Click on Hauraki Gulf on the map, then scroll down below the Westhaven Marina images:

The New Zealand Virtual Reality Project



Programme Leader – Marine Biosecurity