New life for Mangakotukutuku Stream

By Danielle Nicholson

There are some much pampered eels and fish that will be catered for in tuna townhouses, kokopu condos and a mudfish motel.

The Mangakotukutuku Stream Care Group (MSC) is collaborating with several organisations to create fish habitats in the stream in Melville's Sandford Park. Scientists and engineers have worked together to come up with artificial habitats that the tuna (the Maori name for eel), kokopu and mudfish will - hopefully - thrive in. They've dubbed the three-tier plastic tubes tuna townhouses, the larger plastic pipe that leads to a cavern a kokopu condo, and an artificial wetland a mudfish motel.

MSC chairperson Grant Blackie said the idea was to reintroduce native fish species that used to live in the catchment but don't any longer.

Tonkin and Taylor environmental engineer Bryn Quilter said tuna townhouse and kokopu condo "sounds better than 'fish refuge structure'". But while the artificial habitats may sound fun, the reality is many man hours and much thought and research has gone into creating these structures with the aim of restoring the stream's aquatic life.

Bryn said while the artificial habitats were experimental, he was confident the innovative ideas would work. Waikato Regional Council will monitor the movements of the eels and fish to see when and how they are using the structures.

In addition to the artificial habitats, other features along the 130m stretch of the stream would be included, such as hardwood logs that would be strategically placed so small fish could shelter beneath them, away from predators.

The project was kick started by MSC and has funded primarily by the Waikato River Cleanup Trust to the tune of more than $140,000. The Department of Conservation has also contributed $5000.

MSC, which has more than 50 members, began planting native trees and shrubs in the gully and along the banks of the stream about seven years ago as part of its goal to enhance the native biodiversity and ecological health of the stream and gully area.            

The banks of the stream are prone to erosion because of the sandy soil. So, as part of the project, dozens of sand-filled bags are being layered and wrapped in recycled wool matting. The open weave of the matting will enable plants' roots to grow through and further strengthen the banks.

Situated away from the stream, the "mudfish motel" is an artificial mudflat that has been specially designed and engineered. The mudflat will be fed by an existing nearby spring that will be diverted from the storm water system it currently feeds into. MSC members will plant native vegetation around the perimeter.

Grant said he hoped in time that students of all ages could study the stream.  He believes it is Hamilton's best gully system and is an example of what can be achieved with some innovative thinking.

MSC holds weeding days in the gully each month and planting days 3-4 times during winter. To find out more or get involved, visit

- Hamilton News

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