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Thousands get behind the fight for whitebait

Published: 14 March 2019

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Slivers of silver get helping hand

More than 1500 people from 20-plus schools and community groups have been working with Whitebait Connection to ‘adopt’ whitebait spawning sites.

Whitebait Connection is a freshwater conservation education programme that strives to empower and support communities to achieve marine and freshwater conservation through science-based experiential programmes, resources, projects and community engagement.

Since 2015, with support from Auckland Council and local boards, Whitebait Connection has located and mapped nine undiscovered inanga spawning sites. Inanga is one of five native whitebait species under threat from pollution, migration barriers, pests, and human impacts.

To help the health of Auckland’s waterways, landowners, local schools, and community groups are identifying and maintaining newly discovered spawning sites.

Adopting a site involves creating and carrying out restoration plans, tailored to each site. The plans can include fencing for stock exclusion, riparian planting, pest control, water quality monitoring, spawning activity monitoring, and more. The project has so far gained widespread, proactive support from several communities including Manukau, South Titirangi, Kaipara, Warkworth, and Snells Beach.

Restoring whitebait habitat is important to the council’s long-term goal of improving water quality, aided by the Water Quality Targeted Rate (WQTR) which was added to the general rate in 2018 following public consultation, to fund cleaning up Auckland’s waterways

Inanga eggs at Snells Beach
Inanga eggs at Snells Beach

The council’s Biodiversity team have been working on the Puhinui Stream with community groups including local schools, Manukau Beautification Trust, Shah Satnam Ji community, Department of Corrections, the mayor’s Million Trees project, Sustainable Coastlines, Vector, and community volunteers, to help protect native ecosystems.

Auckland Council has successfully collaborated with EcoMatters community group and passionate members of the South Titirangi community to restore the local creek. The project connected members of the community to their stream, raised awareness of the importance of freshwater ecosystems, and empowered them to act.

For the Whitebait Connection team, having communities actively support and take ownership of maintaining our precious resource is a huge accomplishment. Both Whitebait Connection’s Auckland Manager and National Coordinator Sophie Tweddle and Kim Jones are thrilled with the community’s contribution and involvement.

“We wouldn't be able to do half of what we do without having the community behind us and our organisation is very much about empowering communities to take action for their local freshwater environment,” says Tweddle.

Thousands more people within communities can help these small fish overcome the monumental obstacles they face. Since water is a scarce and essential resource to society, restoring its health and quality is a priority for all beings.

To get involved follow Whitebait Connection on Facebook or contact Sophie Tweddle at sophie@whitebaitconnection.co.nz for further information.