Fish Screen Campaign to begin

A campaign to improve the standard of fish screens is being rolled out across Canterbury, to ensure more healthy fish remain in our rivers.

Fish screens are structures intended to divert fish from surface water takes without harm, and have been required for surface water consents since 2004. From 2008 consent conditions have been based on NIWA guidelines, which represent current best practice.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) Senior Manager Service Delivery Nick Daniels said fish screens were added as a new regional implementation priority for 2018-19 in April. From 2012 to 2017 the focus of ECan’s compliance monitoring and regional implementation teams has been water metering, stock in waterways, dairy effluent and high-risk consents.

The fish screen campaign will initially focus on about 50 consents with a fish screen condition, selected with input from the Department of Conservation, Fish & Game and iwi, and, while not yet confirmed, were likely to be located mainly at large intakes, or environmentally significant or sensitive sites, Daniels said. Currently, there are 922 consents with fish screen conditions.

A pilot study to inform the campaign was completed in June and, informed by the study, ECan had updated its standard fish screen monitoring procedures.

“The pilot study showed that significant improvement in both the effectiveness and compliance of fish screens was required to ensure more healthy fish remain in our rivers. We need to do more along with industry and consent holders. This campaign will focus on working with consent holders to upgrade their screens to current best practice.

“We know fish screens can require significant investment to ensure they work. We will work with consent holders to develop realistic timeframes for any necessary improvements. It some cases it may be possible to put interim improvements in place while longer-term ones are planned,” Daniels said.

Consent holders with a fish screens involved in the campaign would be contacted shortly with more information, including advice to resolve any compliance issues.

ECan also recognised there was limited capacity within the engineering industry to support consent holders upgrade their fish screens and is working with IrrigationNZ to build capacity and capability for the installation and maintenance of fish screens to ensure they were improved to agreed standards over time, he said.

An Irrigation New Zealand-led industry workshop would be held in September, hosted jointly by Environment Canterbury. The workshop has the explicit goal of building knowledge and capacity within the engineering sector.

“Environment Canterbury will develop guidance documents for existing consent holders and new applicants that cover small and large intakes. We will continue to work with the Fish Screen Technical Working Group (FSTWG), and industry,” Daniels said.

The FSTWG, of which Environment Canterbury is a member, is formed by the mayoral forum and includes representatives from industry, iwi, environmental and fishing groups, and has a mandate to review technical standards for fish screens.

For further information, visit ECan's fish screen page.