Whitebait recovery campaign justified

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is spending $24 million a year on whitebait habitat. Supplied Photos.

A regional council decision to spend $24 million a year to protect and improve Bay of Plenty's rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers is being endorsed by a Ministry for Environment report on the state of the country's fresh water.

The MOE's Our Fresh Water 2017 report finds nitrogen levels at over half of monitored river sites are getting worse, and furthermore, 72 per cent of the 29 native fish species monitored are either threatened with or at risk of extinction.

Our Fresh Water 2017 is the first dedicated report on fresh water in New Zealand's Environmental Reporting Series, and will become a baseline for tracking change over time in water quality, biodiversity and cultural health.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Science manager Rob Donald says the report's results largely reflect what is occurring in the region and reinforces the council's work as part of implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

“While we have yet to go through the report in detail, we're pleased to see that it shows that our lakes monitoring is on track and we're seeing improvements in our lakes' water quality.

“This is largely due to proactive interventions being delivered by the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme.”

Strategy and Science manager Ian Morton says the report highlights worrying trends nationally for fish species, but adds there was plenty of work taking place across the Bay of Plenty showing promising results for native fish species.

Fish surveys in the region show some exciting results with two endangered native fish, dwarf galaxiads and koaro, found in a number of upper catchment streams. It is the first time koaro have been found in the Rangitaiki catchment.

“Koaro have been found in the Ikawhenua Ranges at four sites which seems to confirm the success of a trap and transfer programme which has been carried out by the Kokopu Trust as part of the Matahina Dam consent,” says Ian.

“We've also discovered new populations of dwarf galaxiads in three small streams draining the ranges – the Ohutu, Hikurangi and Horomanga.”

In addition, a joint project with the Department of Conservation, Te Arawa Lakes Trust and Ngāti Rangiwewehi to help native fish is having positive results.

This includes the installation of a weir in Hamurana Stream near Rotorua, providing a barrier to prevent trout moving into the upper reaches of the stream, leaving the habitat safe for native fish, especially koaro.

The weir doesn't stop the koaro as they are famous for their ability to climb steep waterfalls and rocks. The outcome is also a win for downstream users as there are still trout in the lower reaches of the stream for recreational fishermen.

Other work taking place across the region includes the regional council working with community groups and landowners in the Kaituna Water Management Area to restore inanga spawning and rearing habitat, and to do the same with the Nukuhou Saltmarsh Care Group.

“This work taking place on the ground links with the work our scientists are doing to improve our knowledge on fish spawning habitats and passage,” adds Ian.

The regional council is currently strengthening water allocation limits through a Region-wide Water Quantity Plan Change, while it also works with communities to set water quality and quantity targets for specific areas and waterways.

“This is part of our work to implement central government's National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. We've started with the Kaituna Maketu, Pongakawa Waitahanui and Rangitaiki catchments. This work will roll out to other parts of the region in the coming years.”

People are encouraged to visit the BOPRC's Freshwater Futures webpage for further information about the regional council's water work and to sign up to its Freshwater Flash e-newsletter.


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Sunset over Matakana Island. Photo: Linda Howe.

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