Minister visits Te Arai fresh water project
The Minister for the Environment (MfE), Hon Dr Nick Smith was given an update on a project to identify and restore spawning habitats in the Te Arai River, when he visited the Gisborne region yesterday.
Last year Council received funding from the Ministry to undertake a community-based pilot project within the Lower Waipaoa and Te Arai catchment areas to identify, protect and enhance inanga (whitebait) spawning sites.
The minister visited the river at a Waingake Road property to meet with representatives of the project from Gisborne District Council, the Tairawhiti Environment Centre and Rongowhakaata.
The project has been underway since December 2014.
“It aims to develop the capacity within local community and iwi groups to identify potential fish spawning areas and to undertake restoration of these areas,” says environmental and regulatory services group manager Kevin Strongman.
“Inanga are an important customary and recreational food source for people.
“They’re also an important food source for other species, identifying and enhancing their habitat could result in positive cultural, social and ecological outcomes for the area.
“The pilot will help us develop a programme for the rest of our region.”
Earlier this year scientific advisor and native fishery expert, Hans Rook gave a public talk on restoring habitats for native fish and how this could be achieved in Tairāwhiti.
Rook has been working with the project team to map spawning sites in the catchment, including the Te Arai and Maraetaha Rivers.
“We’ve learned inanga lay their eggs at a fairly high tide in grassy areas around where the salt water meets the freshwater,” says Mr Strongman.
“A spawning site may look like milk has been dropped along the grasses.”
Preferred grasses are known to be tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera).
Protecting these sites through fencing, vegetation management and excluding stock can contribute to an improved fishery.
“Council can help to regulate activities around spawning sites like those proposed in the regional Freshwater Plan that will come into effect in October.”
More work with Rongowhakaata, Ngai Tamanuhiri and the landowners will happen over the next few months with the final report to MfE due in December.