Community Support the Waitahuna River

(Published on 21st July 2017)

The native fish of the Waitahuna River in Otago benefitted from two days of community activity recently courtesy of a collaboration between NZ Landcare Trust and DOC. Two separate events saw the community plant over 1000 plants with the aim of enhancing habitat for native species such as tuna (NZ longfin eel) and kanakana (lamprey).

In addition to helping native fish, the plantings which included harakeke (flax), purei (carex grasses) and ti kouka (cabbage trees) will also help stabilise the river edge and reduce erosion and sedimentation.

One of the events included an educational field day, which provided an excellent opportunity to learn about freshwater values and how to protect native species.

More than 70 people were involved over the course of the two events including students, parents and teachers from Lawrence Area School and staff from the Landcorp Waipori station farm.

NZ Landcare Trust and DOC reinforced shared objectives as they worked collaboratively to deliver the events,  which reinforced important freshwater conservation messages.  Attendees benefitted from planting demonstrations, fish monitoring displays, discussion about Water Plan rules with Otago Regional Council liaison staff and catchment information from the Clutha Development Trust.

Sinclair Wetlands co-ordinator Glen Riley arrived on site for the field day with 600 plants ready for their new home, all grown from eco-sourced seed. He also provided an enjoyable workshop on how to correctly plant them, ensure good survival rates and the importance of riparian plantings.

A fish monitoring display from DOC rangers enabled an exciting glimpse of the species being protected - an adult tuna and a juvenile kanakana were brought to the surface for a show and tell session, much to the amusement and enjoyment of onlookers.

For many it was the first time they had ever seen a lamprey, and it provided an important visual link between the restoration work being done above the water and what lies beneath the surface of the Waitahuna.

One of the true successes of the planting days was seeing the local community connecting with their special freshwater environment; a home for some precious taonga as shown by a DOC survey of the Waitahuna River in 2015, which found important populations of tuna and kanakana present there.

The survey work and resulting planting days form a suite of projects in the Lower Clutha / Mata-Au catchment managed by the Department of Conservation for Contact Energy Limited, which has provided funding for plants and fencing materials for riparian restoration work as part of its mitigation for dams on the Clutha River. NZ Landcare Trust was invited by DOC to coordinate the planting days.

Farm management at the Waitahuna site played an especially important role in the whole restoration process. NZ Landcare Trust and DOC assisted with site planning, planting day setup, and the installation of a riparian fence around plantings to prevent stock access.

The Waitahuna project was heralded on the Sinclair Wetlands Facebook page as a “terrific conservation collaboration,” something truly reflected by the number of different groups and individuals who happily put their time, energy and positive feedback into a very successful planting season.




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