Water races set to be closed in Malvern
Five lengths of water race in the Malvern scheme are set to dry up for good after their closure was approved by the Selwyn District Council (SDC) last week.
Water races often harboured some of Canterbury’s endangered fish species. The five sections were fed from the Kowai River, so could contain Canterbury galaxias, longfin eel, upland bully or freshwater mussels. No fish salvaging work had yet been confirmed.
SDC asset manager water services Murray England said the five lengths totalled around 7.4km and their closure was initiated by property owners.
England said council consulted with various stakeholders including Fish and Game, the Department of Conservation (DoC), Environment Canterbury, Te Taumutu Ru¯ nanga and Te Ru¯ nanga o Nga¯ i Tahu.
The closure would affect eight properties, all of which supported the move England said.
England said fish salvage work was to be arranged by property owners in the event of a ratepayer initiated closure.
Fish that were salvaged from water races were usually moved to another area of water race.
‘‘The requirement for fish salvage is dependent on the ecological significance of the race. As an example, if a race has been dry for a significant period then fish salvage will not be required,’’ England said.
The five lengths were not high value ecological sites, but DoC senior ranger Anita Spencer said it would still have some environmental impact.
‘‘Canterbury in particular has lost a large amount of its wetlands, close to 95 per cent. A lot of the water races are old streams and creeks. Basically, this is what our waterways look like now,’’ she said.
Many water races had become important mahinga kai sites and functioning ecosystems with a ‘‘high ecological value’’. Spencer said around 28 per cent of existing mudfish habitats were water races.
She said ultimately DoC would like to see the higher value areas of water races defined as minireserves and maintained with native planting.
‘‘They could be a real feature for communities,’’ Spencer said.
Without a definition of which sites were guaranteed to remain, some of the salvaged fish from the five Malvern sites could face re-salvaging in future, Spencer said.
Five Malvern water races, like the one pictured here, have been approved for closure by the Selwyn District Council.