De­mands to free the Paekakariki 4000

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL MAXWELL

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.’’

SUP­PLIED

A team works to de-fish a sec­tion of Te Puka stream, be­fore it is di­verted as part of the Trans­mis­sion Gully project.

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