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MPI to investigate death of eels after council work

MPI to investigate death of eels after Hawke's Bay Regional Council work in Tutaekuri River

Anusha Bradley, Hawke's Bay Reporter

The death of possibly hundreds of natives eels, dumped on a river bank by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, is being investigated by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Nathanael Scurr and his cousin made the discovery after coming across a huge mud pile on the banks of the Tutaekuri River, near Puketapu, on Friday.

A video he posted on Facebook has caused outrage among locals and has forced the halt of drainage work by the regional council until a full review is carried out.

"I was shocked. There were just dead eels everywhere, about the size of 30 centimetres, and you could see them trying to escape the mud. Some they had obviously been cooked in it."

"I just thought what a waste ... what an awful cruel thing to do to these creatures," Mr Scurr told RNZ.

The eels were uplifted in tonnes of mud that had been cleared from drains as part of the Heretaunga Plains Flood Control and Drainage Scheme work by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

"The work is carried out as a permitted activity and in accordance of our Code of Practice for River Control and Waterway Works which was first implemented in 1999 and most recently reviewed in 2017," Hawke's Bay Regional Council group manager asset management Chris Dolley said in a statement.

"A slotted bucket is used on the digger which allows water and eels to escape, however sometimes not all of the eels manage to escape this way.

"As soon as we were made aware of this issue, work has been stopped until a full review of the standard work practice can be completed over the coming days. There have already been discussions and one of the options we are looking at is a catch and release option with local iwi, but we would need to speak with them to work out all the details of that," Mr Dolley said.

Local iwi Ngāti Kahungunu has been contacted for comment.

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