Archives For Stream

By DOC’s Des Williams, based in Hamilton

What used to be a relatively uninspiring walk from Te Pahu’s Limeworks Loop Road to the Kaniwhaniwha campsite in Pirongia Forest Park is being transformed into a tunnel of green.

The walkway now planted with native plants.

The tunnel of green

Thanks to the efforts of the Te Pahu Landcare Group over the past 12 years, many thousands of native trees are flourishing and the track is now suitable for family groups, casual strollers, pushchair pushers and mountain bikers, as well as the more serious trampers.

It has always been DOC Ranger Bruce Postill’s dream to see the area planted up with native trees around the Kaniwhaniwha Stream and local residents regard it as part of their mission to make that come true.

DOC workers and volunteers reflect on their work.

Ed Brodnax, Bruce Postill and DOC ranger Stuart Wind reflect on their work

At the beginning of the project the track was nothing more than a walk through grazed pasture, with the adjoining farmer’s stock having free access to the stream banks and waterway. DOC’s Waikato Area staff members Bruce Postill and Dave Matthews started on a plan to change this little part of their world.

They went to the local council with their plans and the council agreed to turn it into recreation reserve and let DOC take control of it as an access-way to the park boundary.

The next task was to fence the boundary. For the first two or three years Bruce and Dave were making progress at the rate of about 100 metres a year. A hundred metres fenced, a hundred metres planted. Then Bruce looked at Dave: “Mate, we are not going to get this done in our lifetime at the rate we are going.”

The Kaniwhaniwha Stream.

Kaniwhaniwha Stream

Then the project got a kick-start, with the Lotteries Commission provided funding and with the Te Pahu Landcare Group keen to get involved.

Though present membership comprises less than a dozen people, they have all taken this project to heart and are starting to see results with some of their initial plantings now several metres high in places.

A kowhai flower on a branch.

Solitary kowhai heralding the new spring

So, year by year, the walk through pasture land is becoming a walk through an avenue of trees, with each flourishing native carrying the pride of the local community that has helped put it there.

Brian Sheppard works for DOC at National Office in Wellington. He writes about his recent surprise at finding a giant kokopu living in the stream near his house in urban Wellington: 

When I lived in the UK, I enjoyed the occasional bowl of whitebait but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I moved to New Zealand and found that our whitebait are the size of small matches rather than large pencils. I have eaten them, and even enjoyed them in a guilty way. Why guilty? I am used to eating eggs, whether from chicken or fish, but am more comfortable with the prospect of allowing the offspring to grow a bit before I devour them.

New Zealand whitebait.

Our whitebait are the size of small matches.

Working in DOC, I follow the arguments about managing streams and their margins and, amongst other things, the impacts of riparian management on the breeding cycle of our native galaxiids, which, when harvested as babies, are our whitebait.

My interest took a new turn when I learned that a giant kokopu had set up home in our local stream in Wellington. I grabbed my camera and went on big game safari. When I saw this beautiful beast, which seems to be about 20 cm long, it was me rather than the fish that was hooked.

Giant kokopu discovered in a Wellington stream.

The beautiful beast

On a second visit, in brighter lighting conditions and from a better position, I was able to see it in its full splendour.  It is coloured like the night sly, framed with reddish fins. After some frantic reading, I understand that the name galaxiid refers to its patterning that it reminiscent of a galaxy. I also read that it feeds on small koura and any insects that happen to fall into the stream. When I saw the size of its mouth and its fierce array of teeth, I realise that it must be a monster for unsuspecting invertebrates.

I have no pretence about being a ‘fishologist’ but its swelling belly made me wonder if it is a mum-to-be.  Having shown the photos to others who are more familiar with these things, it seems to be likely, so the safaris will continue.

The giant kokopu appears to have a swelling belly.

A swelling belly, possibly more kokopu to come

I have lived in my house since the mid 1980s and been aware over the years of the great efforts that have been made in cleaning up the stream, reducing pollution, looking after its surrounding vegetation and protecting its banks from erosion. In this urban landscape, all of that hard work is paying off. ‘My’ giant kokopu has made its home under a gabion basket that reinforces the bank against erosion during the periods of intense flow that follow heavy rain.  With so much asphalt and so many storm water drains that feed the stream, the water flow can quickly change from a trickle to a raging torrent, the back to a trickle as the water flows into the harbour.  All of this, in some mysterious way, is an essential part of the life cycle of these beautiful fish, and it all happens in urban Wellington.

The stream where the giant kokopu was found.

Lots of work has gone in to cleaning up the stream

Is this really a mum-to-be?  Is there a dad-to-be on hand to fertilise the eggs?  Where will this happen, and will there be a happy ending?  What’s more, will I ever find out?  I think that a few more safaris are needed.

Giant kokopu in urban Wellington.

Is this really a mum-to-be?