Waimakariri youth protect mudfish habitat with planting project

Students from View Hill School are protecting Canterbury mudfish habitat, with support from our Fish Habitat Fund.

View Hill School children getting stuck in at the planting day.

View Hill School children getting stuck in at the planting day.

Around 350 natives have been planted at a property near the school, in a bid to help improve habitat for the very special and endangered Canterbury mudfish/kōwaro.

Kōwaro are non-migratory endemic (found only in New Zealand) fish which are highly threatened. They’re only found in a few places in Canterbury in small, slow flowing streams, ponds, drains and wetlands often with deep pools and lots of aquatic plants.

The fish grow to about 12 centimeters long, only living for five to six years. 

Survey identifies View Hill waterway home to kōwaro

A Department of Conservation (DOC) mudfish survey in March 2020 found 12 mudfish in the waterway near View Hill School. 

DOC staff who undertook the survey encouraged the school and landowners to undertake restoration in the area, to help build habitat for the fish.

Together, View Hill School and Working Waters Trust are carrying out a restoration plan to create habitat for, and learn about, the native fish species.

Planting puts habitat hotspot on the map

planting along View hill waterway

A recent planting day saw 350 eco-sourced native plants put along the waterway where the kōwaro were found.

Working Waters Trust has supported students to plant along the banks of the waterway and provided educational sessions at the site, teaching the children about the uniqueness and threats to mudfish and how we can help protect them.

View Hill School Princial Bu Windsor said the students loved taking part and learning about the kōwaro.

“The students can’t wait to get back to see how the plants are going,” she said.

“I’ve been looking into outdoor classroom projects like these for ten or so years, so to see the project come to fruition is marvelous.

“I’ll be building my science curriculum for next year around the kōwaro,” she said.

Trust coordinator Jenny Bond said it was an awesome day.

“It was so great to see everyone working together to create what will in a few years again be an amazing habitat for these precious Canterbury Kōwaro. Ngā mihi nui to the landowners, volunteers and the school for making this happen,” she said.

The trust, school and landowners will carry out ongoing maintenance of the plants.

Regional funding to support habitat creation

Regional Programmes biodiversity officer Chloe Armour said it was great to be able to support the project through our Biodiversity Regional Initiative Fish Habitat Fund.

“We were able to buy plants and help with maintenance work through the fund,” she said.

“It’s an awesome project and we’re looking forward to seeing the benefits of this for years to come,” she added. 

Plants used include varieties of carex, toetoe, mikimiki, harakeke, koromiko, olearia and cabbage tree/ tī kōuka. 
The fund is coordinated by the Regional Biodiversity team, and a regional fish focus group provides guidance, advice, and recommendations.

“It helps projects with improving fish habitat, looking at ways to increase upstream access for fish by looking at ways to remediate migration barriers, restore instream areas important for fish habitat and looking at protection of native fish populations that are at risk from predation by trout,” Chloe said. 

The current priorities of the funding are fish passage, īnanga habitat, mudfish conservation, longfin eel/tuna and non-migratory species.

Those interested in knowing more about the fund and projects being funded can contact Chloe Armour.

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If you’re wanting to support or advice for your biodiversity project you can contact your local officer via our customer services number 0800 324 636 and ask to be put through to them or email biodiversity@ecan.govt.nz.

Photo credit: Jenny Bond - Working Waters Trust