Vulnerable species found in Waituna Creek

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Giant kokopu. Photo: Emma Bardsley

GIANT kokopu have been found in Waituna Creek for the first time since 2014, during a Department of Conservation (Doc) study.

The creek, part of a transformation trial, was also found to be home to another vulnerable species, Phiarau/kanakana/lamprey — the first time the species had been seen in seven years of surveying.

Living Water impact and partnerships manager Nicki Atkinson said the presence of giant kokopu was exciting.
“These results are proof of the success of the habitat enhancement work we’re doing in the
catchment.”

Living Water, a partnership between Doc and Fonterra, works with Fonterra farmers, scientists, councils, communities and mana whenua together within the wider Whakamana Te Waituna programme participants to restore the Waituna Creek.

The Waituna Creek fish population has been monitored annually during mid-late March since 2014, excluding 2020.

Living Water selected the Waituna catchment to trial habitat improvement tools, as it is intensively farmed, and the habitat and water quality are poor.

Living Water chose two 200m areas (500m apart) along the creek to trial the stream habitat rehabilitation actions. The transformation created flow variability in the waterway with macrocarpa logs and bundles of manuka wired and anchored into the creek bed for shade and hiding places for fish.

Extensive riparian planting created shade and habitat for insects serving as a food source for fish.

Ms Atkinson said the objective of the trial was to test a new way to manage the stream channel so native fish habitat was improved, while land drainage and the capacity of the channel to carry floods was maintained.

“These agricultural waterways are usually viewed only for their drainage capacity but they have high conservation values as the only remaining home to most of our threatened and at-risk freshwater species like the giant kokopu.

‘‘Living Water wanted to demonstrate that both values can exist together. The results from our surveys show this is definitely possible, the habitat additions can make a big difference to help these fish thrive here and the surrounding landowners aren’t impacted.”

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