Endangered fish boosted by local kids

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The children from Maungaturoto Primary School celebrate the unveiling of a "Welcome to Whitebait Island" sign at the Wairau River last week.
The children from Maungaturoto Primary School celebrate the unveiling of a "Welcome to Whitebait Island" sign at the Wairau River last week.

The future of whitebait in Wairau River at Maungaturoto is now much more secure after efforts from the local school, community, Whitebait Connection and dairy giant Fonterra.

Fonterra's Maungaturoto site, in partnership with the Whitebait Connection, community groups and Maungaturoto Primary School, is creating a safe haven for the endangered whitebait fish in the Wairau River that runs behind the site.

Earlier this month thousands and thousands of whitebait spawned at the site, thanks to the work of the groups, and particularly the efforts of the schoolchildren, who had helped put in place plants in the river that provided perfect spawning spots.

Many of the children were on hand to watch the spawning and the erection of a sign declaring the area "Whitebait Island". Fonterra said the recent spawning highlights the work that's been done over the last couple of years to improve conditions for the rare fish by the local community.

Whitebait numbers have been declining over the years due to the specific conditions they like to spawn. As the area behind Fonterra's Maungaturoto site is as an ideal location for spawning due to the "salt water wedge", the area where fresh and salt water meet, it was decided to give the fish a helping hand.

Fonterra Maungaturoto's Environmental Lead Steven Gale said the company is committed to doing the best for the environment and he and the rest of the team see real value in working with the Whitebait Connection and local schools on this project.

"Whitebait is as threatened as the little spotted kiwi in New Zealand, and we believe it's essential that we do everything we can to ensure they don't become extinct," Mr Gage said.

Whitebait Connection staff member Kim Jones said it's been great to have the team at Fonterra get behind this project, as well as the community and school.

"We couldn't have done this without their support - it's been just great, nothing has been a problem for them," Ms Jones said.

Last week the children from Maungaturoto Primary celebrated the area with an unveiling of a sign at the river - the kids also got to see the recently laid whitebait eggs protected from the sun thanks to some of the plants they helped plant.

- Northern Advocate

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