Riparian planting helps whitebait survive

GOOD NEWS FOR WHITEBAIT LOVERS: Te Arai River’s riparian management plan effectively protected the inanga whitebait spawning site. Picture supplied

TE Arai River’s inanga (whitebait) spawning site looks promising thanks to a new riparian planting management plan.

Project coordinators are relieved that the site at Manutuke survived this year’s harsh flooding and severe weather events.

Rongowhakaata, landowners, and the Gisborne District Council (GDC) have been working together on a range of restoration projects that focused on habitat enhancement for this native fish.

Jamie Foxley from the Tairawhiti Environment Centre (TEC) said that the small area of riparian planting at Te Arai had mostly survived the high winter flows.

“The entire project was covered with floodwater and a layer of silt, but because the plants are low lying rushes, reeds and grasses they didn’t cause slash to ‘hang up’.

“It just washed over them, meaning many survived,” said Mr Foxley.

Katie Foxley from TEC said they planted 2000 plants last year with the help of Rongowhakaata iwi.

“We hope to be as successful this year at the next planting day on September 23 at 9.30am.

“People will need to bring a spade, gloves and boots.

“There will be a parking sign two kilometres up Waingake Road.

“The site is slightly steep and can be a little slippery, so is not suitable for young children.

“We will postpone the planting if it is too wet,” she said.

Water quality science officer Harriet Roil, project manager on behalf of the GDC, says whitebait species are at risk of declining.

“It is important that we do whatever we can to protect the adult habitat and the spawning sites of these fish.

“We are clearing willows and planting plant species that are the most effective at creating damp, dark, moist places above the high tide mark.

“This is an appropriate gradient for fish to spawn in.

“Inanga use both the river and the sea as part of their life cycle.

“They grow to mature adults in the river, spawning at the saltwater edge, then their eggs sit for around a month.

“The eggs mature on the bank in a nice damp shaded spot away from predators.

“When they hatch, they get washed out to sea.

“Once they are grown they swim back upstream, as what many people know as whitebait,” she said.

Rongowhakaata iwi trust’s Soraya Pohatu agreed that the quality of the water and habitat of Te Arai River is a high priority for the trust.

“Rongowhakaata strongly supports this project as the river is sacred to the iwi and is a significant taonga,” she said.

Their aim is to increase the number of plants and create stabilisation.

“The plan is to rebuild our stock so that there is more security and abundance of whitebait in Te Arai”

“People need to see the bigger picture as we have the ability to change and increase the aquatic life and improve the biodiversity of Te Arai.

“We are looking into closing off sections to the public for certain periods to enable these areas to rejuvenate.

“People must know we are not trying to stop people from whitebait fishing but work to ensure the sustainability of the inanga.

“We will reintroduce our traditional harvest and practices,” said Mrs Pohatu.

GDC’s website says inanga are an important customary and recreational food source for many people and other species.

Identifying and enhancing their habitat could result in positive cultural, social and ecological outcomes for the area.

— Spawning sites may look like milk has been dropped along the grasses.

— Protect inanga spawning habitat by planting and fencing stream edges.

— Report any blockages or fish passage barriers such as dams or overhanging culverts to your local DoC or regional council office.

— Follow the whitebait fishing regulations.

— Keep streams free of invasive weeds and fish.

— Get involved in a community project to fence and plant local streams.

Please visit http://www.doc.govt.nz for further information.

TE Arai River’s inanga (whitebait) spawning site looks promising thanks to a new riparian planting management plan.

Project coordinators are relieved that the site at Manutuke survived this year’s harsh flooding and severe weather events.

Rongowhakaata, landowners, and the Gisborne District Council (GDC) have been working together on a range of restoration projects that focused on habitat enhancement for this native fish.

Jamie Foxley from the Tairawhiti Environment Centre (TEC) said that the small area of riparian planting at Te Arai had mostly survived the high winter flows.

“The entire project was covered with floodwater and a layer of silt, but because the plants are low lying rushes, reeds and grasses they didn’t cause slash to ‘hang up’.

“It just washed over them, meaning many survived,” said Mr Foxley.

Katie Foxley from TEC said they planted 2000 plants last year with the help of Rongowhakaata iwi.

“We hope to be as successful this year at the next planting day on September 23 at 9.30am.

“People will need to bring a spade, gloves and boots.

“There will be a parking sign two kilometres up Waingake Road.

“The site is slightly steep and can be a little slippery, so is not suitable for young children.

“We will postpone the planting if it is too wet,” she said.

Water quality science officer Harriet Roil, project manager on behalf of the GDC, says whitebait species are at risk of declining.

“It is important that we do whatever we can to protect the adult habitat and the spawning sites of these fish.

“We are clearing willows and planting plant species that are the most effective at creating damp, dark, moist places above the high tide mark.

“This is an appropriate gradient for fish to spawn in.

“Inanga use both the river and the sea as part of their life cycle.

“They grow to mature adults in the river, spawning at the saltwater edge, then their eggs sit for around a month.

“The eggs mature on the bank in a nice damp shaded spot away from predators.

“When they hatch, they get washed out to sea.

“Once they are grown they swim back upstream, as what many people know as whitebait,” she said.

Rongowhakaata iwi trust’s Soraya Pohatu agreed that the quality of the water and habitat of Te Arai River is a high priority for the trust.

“Rongowhakaata strongly supports this project as the river is sacred to the iwi and is a significant taonga,” she said.

Their aim is to increase the number of plants and create stabilisation.

“The plan is to rebuild our stock so that there is more security and abundance of whitebait in Te Arai”

“People need to see the bigger picture as we have the ability to change and increase the aquatic life and improve the biodiversity of Te Arai.

“We are looking into closing off sections to the public for certain periods to enable these areas to rejuvenate.

“People must know we are not trying to stop people from whitebait fishing but work to ensure the sustainability of the inanga.

“We will reintroduce our traditional harvest and practices,” said Mrs Pohatu.

GDC’s website says inanga are an important customary and recreational food source for many people and other species.

Identifying and enhancing their habitat could result in positive cultural, social and ecological outcomes for the area.

— Spawning sites may look like milk has been dropped along the grasses.

— Protect inanga spawning habitat by planting and fencing stream edges.

— Report any blockages or fish passage barriers such as dams or overhanging culverts to your local DoC or regional council office.

— Follow the whitebait fishing regulations.

— Keep streams free of invasive weeds and fish.

— Get involved in a community project to fence and plant local streams.

Please visit http://www.doc.govt.nz for further information.

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