Whitebait innovation set to repopulate Tūtaekurī River

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Intensive land use and farming practice has seen the whitebait population in the Tūtaekurī River severely depleted. 

So, Ngā Hapū o Tūtaekuri are taking back the mauri of their river through a man-made waterway and are hoping to entice the whitebait back once again. 

The river was once full of whitebait but now Te Kaha Hakiwaikirangi says it's not what it used to be.

"A lot of the whānau that used to collect whitebait when they were younger have seen a huge reduction in the amount of whitebait that we catch today."

To bring back the white delicacy, they've created a man-made waterway and sloped the edges to help make it easier for them to climb onto and spawn.

"This project is really unique as its the first for this river where we've attempted to create our own sort of drain and again also use new technology hydro seeding which is a fast efficient way of putting down the right habitat for the īnanaga to come and spawn in," explains Cameron Ormsby.

The hydro seeding will mean the whitebait habitat will be rebuilt, the area is also fenced off to stop any damage.

"Whitebait are under a lot of pressure particularly from farming land use change and so as more and more farmland for grazing and cattle creeps in on native vegetation and rivers then the habitat they spawn in gets replaced and cattle can stomp in those areas," he says.

It's hoped that over the coming months the new grass will grow and the whitebait will come back be abundant once more.