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Urban wetland in Wainuiomata reveals healthy fish life

Greater Wellington Regional Council staff recently put the spotlight on Wainuiomata, at night, that is, in pursuit of the fish and invertebrates that inhabit the waters of its wetland. Some of which have been swimming around in their urban habitat for decades.

Greater Wellington’s Environmental Science team has been trapping and spotlighting fish to see what is living in our local wetlands.

So far the results for Wainuiomata have been encouraging, with finds including large eels that may be up to 80 years old (with one female measuring 1.4 metres).

Wainuiomata’s wetland is located by the catchment where some of Wellington city’s water comes from.

“It’s a fairly pristine environment – the wetland itself is above an old dam, which acts as a barrier to fish but there’s still a lot of eels living at the top. Below the dam we found quite a few dwarf galaxiids; a small native fish,” says Environmental Monitoring Officer Ashley Mitchell.

The fish life is monitored using a variety of traps, as well as by spotlighting with a torch at night.

Less than three percent of the Greater Wellington region’s original wetland remains. However, wetlands are an important resource. Keeping them healthy is critical for maintaining clean water and supporting wildlife and fish populations.

“Wetlands are able to filter out nutrients, slow floodwaters and store carbon, among other invaluable qualities,” says Dr Philippa Crisp, Team Leader, Environmental Science. “They are also threatened ecosystems and home to rare and unique biodiversity.”

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The Council has been running a wetland health monitoring programme for the past three years. It monitors 30 wetlands per year. Staff will return to each site every five years to see what’s changed. This year staff have been working in the Porirua and Hutt/Wellington areas.

“This programme will help us understand whether the steps we are taking to protect the region’s wetlands are making a difference,” says Dr Crisp.

In Greater Wellington’s proposed Natural Resources Plan, which will be finalised in 2019, there are specific provisions for the protection and management of all wetlands in the region. This includes excluding livestock access; avoiding the discharge of contaminants such as oil or paint; and not undertaking any reclamation activities such as drainage or diverting of water.

“Protecting our wetlands is important work and together we can make a difference.”

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