Topic: Environment

Whangarei water turbines kill-off eel numbers

By Talisa Kupenga
  • Northland

The Whangarei hapū collective involved in an eel revitalisation project is upset that water turbines have chopped the eel numbers it's worked so hard to grow. The Whangarei District Council, also part of the project, says it's a problem triggered by heavy rain and are working towards a solution.

Ngā Kaitiaki o ngā Wai Māori say it's a disheartening sight after working six years to increase eel numbers.

Ngā Kaitiaki o Ngā Wai Māori member Allan Halliday, "Not only this pump station but there's another six pump stations within the Hikurangi swamp and each and every one of them are cutting up tuna at each flood. If you look at these tuna these are tuna heke, these are the breeders. These are the ones that want to go out to sea"

The group, NIWA and other agencies run the elver catch and release programme in the Hikurangi catchment. Flooding kick-starts the water turbines to regulate water levels in the area. But some eels get displaced and when the water recedes, some become trapped and end up swimming into the turbines.

"It's just such a waste. It would be different if people were eating them but that's not even happening. But you can see by the amount of tuna that we have here that this is all kai for the rats and the hawks, but they're not even here. They've obviously had their fill."

The council says an electromagnetic field to deter the eels had limited success. It says the best solution is installing an eel-friendly pump at every station.

Whangarei Regional Council member Andrew Carvell says, "That's currently in our long-term planning, but those pumps are around $2million each and the way the scheme works is its farmer-funded pump-scheme and it takes a while to build up that amount of capital."

Carvell estimates a five-year wait for the first pump, and about 20 years in total to install pumps at each site.

More stories - Whangarei hapū work to increase tuna stocks