The Whitebait Connection (WBC) was contracted by the Landcare Trust in 2015 and 2016 to undertake an Inanga spawning habitat investigation in the Wairau, Paparoa and Pahi River systems. The work forms part of a larger body of work that is focussed on catchment and biodiversity restoration within the Northern Kaipara Harbour through the Reconnecting Northland project which is a partnership between the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and Landcare Trust (LT). This project has proven to be successful with Inanga spawning sites identified in all three focus rivers, with the first being the Wairau River.
In the first year of the project (2015), and alongside the delivery of the WBC programme to Maungaturoto School, an Inanga spawning site was discovered along the Wairau River, on a property owned by multi-national dairy farming co-operative Fonterra. Enthusiasm about this discovery rippled amongst the Maungaturoto community which was clearly demonstrated with the quick ‘adoption’ of the site by Fonterra and Maungaturoto School where they remain committed to the restoration of the site. Their commitment has seen substantial planting efforts along the Wairau River and ongoing monitoring where many community members have also dedicated voluntary hours. After identifying this spawning site and determining approximate spawning times, the only known footage of an Inanga spawning event was captured at the Wairau River in 2016. WBC continued to work with the school through to 2018, eventually handing over full responsibility to the now Silver Enviroschool.
In addition to Maungutoroto School becoming a Silver Enviroschool (of which ceremony WBC was invited to be the ‘guest of honour’), the success of this project was acknowledged where the students and Kim Jones (WBC National Coordinator) featured on Country Calendar in 2018 where they visited another newly located spawning site discovered as part of this project. Most significantly, this initial work has informed what is now known as the National Inanga Spawning Programme which has rolled out nationally and is achieving environmental outcomes all over New Zealand.
Enviroschools and other organisations have since used this project as a great case study of meaningful collaboration and local action for freshwater, including in the WaiRestoration handbook that is available nationally to all Enviroschools.