Demands to free the Paekakariki 4000
The NZ Transport Agency is accused of imprisoning 4000 native fish in a stream to nowhere, triggering a Free the Fish campaign on the Kapiti Coast.
The agency, however, says it is working hard on a plan to unlock the stream where the Paekakariki 4000 are held.
Agency contractors moved the native fish into the Wainui Stream for protection while the nearby Te Puka Stream was diverted on the $850 million Transmission Gully site north of Wellington.
Free the Fish protesters say many of the 4000 could remain stranded forever, stopped from completing their life cycle by a gravel blockage the agency was trying to dodge fixing.
Campaign spokeswoman Flo McNeill said that, to gain consent, the agency promised 11 kilometres of uninterrupted passage upstream and downstream for fish in the Wainui.
This could not happen without the about 500 metres of raised gravel being fixed, close to where the Gully route brushes past the current State Highway 1 stream culvert, she said.
McNeill said the upper Wainui could take the fish because there were none left there to begin with.
‘‘If that stream was teeming with fish they wouldn’t have been allowed to. They had all died out because of the... barrier.’’
Most of the fish needed to get to the sea to complete their life cycle otherwise ‘‘they’ll live out their little lives, and then they’ll die out and there will be no more’’.
The transferred fish included
‘‘It's like having kiwis grazing in your backyard.’’
koaro, eel, redfin bully and banded kokopu.
Agency highway manager Neil Walker said the agency was committed to fixing the ‘‘fish passage constraint’’ but the gravel extended beyond agencycontrolled land.
‘‘The agency is working with other stakeholders including Greater Wellington Regional Council, private landowners and interest groups on an overall plan to enable fish passage along the entire stream length.’’
This would have to ensure that there were no ‘‘adverse impacts’’ such as increased risk of flooding.
Once the new Te Puka stream channel was constructed, some fish would be transported back.
McNeill said the fish in the Wainui were as rare and endangered as kiwi: ‘‘It’s like having kiwis grazing in your backyard. They’re really special endangered fish.’’
A team works to de-fish a section of Te Puka stream, before it is diverted as part of the Transmission Gully project.