Dead eels in stream
A Taranaki man believes it’s time for a complete overhaul of how waterways in the region are managed, after dead eels were found in a stream on his ancestral fishing grounds.
Tihikura Hohaia, of Taranaki iwi, has kept a close eye on the health of Waitekaure Stream in Pungarehu, South Taranaki for decades and its current state left him seeing red.
‘‘It’s absolute anger.’’
The stream is running dry and tuna (eel) are struggling to live and thrive. Three dead tuna were found in the stream at the weekend.
A video posted on Facebook by Te Whenua To¯ muri Trust on February 9, also highlighted concerns about the state of coastal streams like Waitekaure and questioned what was contributing to their decline. The trust was formed in 2013 with a focus on community development and the environment. Fronted by environmentalist and trustee Emily Bailey, the video links the health of the streams to a variety of factors including the drainage of wetlands, intensive dairy farming, drought, rising sea levels and poor management.
In 2014, Hohaia laid a complaint with Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) about earthworks being carried out in the Waitekaure catchment and the impact this was having on ancestral fish stocks.
He felt little had been done in the intervening years to protect the waterway, or others in his rohe and he felt there had been no contingency plan in place to ensure the ongoing health of the streams, even against factors like drought.
‘‘This is the second time that stream’s [Waitekaure] dried up in two years,’’ he said. Hohaia felt iwi and hapu¯ should be given a bigger role in terms of monitoring and protection the region’s waterways.
‘‘They carry our ko¯ rero, they carry our history, they are our lifeblood, they are us,’’ he said.
While there are iwi representatives on TRC’s standing committees, Hohaia did not think this went far enough. ‘‘It’s not a partnership as was promised under the Treaty of Waitangi at all.’’
In response to the video posted online, TRC director environment quality Fred McLay said drought conditions and the associated prolonged dry spell since November 2017 had ‘‘significantly impacted’’ on the Waitekaure Stream.
‘‘There are other similar streams in the area with very low natural flows. In some cases only the main stem of the streams have water in them and the tributaries and farm drains have dried up,’’ he said.
He confirmed the council had responded to reports of dead, or stressed, eels as a result.
McLay said there was no resource consent in place to take water from the Waitekaure Stream. There were other resource consents in place, including to discharge dairy effluent on nearby farm land and water.
In response to questions about the frequency of monitoring of the stream, McLay said with more than 500 waterways in the region, it was ‘‘not feasible to monitor every reach of every stream for water quality.’’
He said its annual farm inspection programme gave the council ‘‘a reasonable level of general surveillance’’ and information from the public about any environmental concerns were also welcomed.
McLay confirmed Hohaia’s 2014 complaint had been investigated and found that stream diversion earthworks had been carried out in preparation for riparian fencing and planting. He said an abatement notice was issued to cease the work and apply for resource consent. Subsequently, the abatement notice was complied with and a resource consent issued and monitored, he said.
Three further complaints about the Waitekaure Stream had been lodged with TRC since then. In February 2016, concerns were raised about dead eels being found at the stream’s mouth.
McLay said a further complaint about the stream diversion works was made in April 2016 but an inspection found the consent conditions were being adhered with.
In October 2017, TRC responded to concerns about discolouration of the stream, but this was not evident at the time of inspection, McLay said.
The Waitekaure Stream has suffered significantly because of the region’s drought conditions, the TRC says.