Pānui/Newsletter July 2021
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A measure of health for the Waihi estuary catchment, will be when giant pīpī are healthy and thriving at the river mouth, safe to eat all of the time, and native aquatic fauna like the giant kōkopu are thriving the full length of the arterial waterways that feed into the catchment, from the volcanic plateau to the sea. 
Upcoming events
Message from the Chair
Funding from BayTrust
Wai Kōkopu to partner with GNS Science
Sub-catchment groups' update
Farm advisors' collaboration
Restoration: Past, present and future

When kōkopu thrived
— A recollection with Allen Stancliff

Have you ever seen a kōkopu?
— Forest and Bird

Wai Kōkopu Society membership
Cawthron NZ River Awards
Stay connected with our work

Upcoming events

    Entries close 30 July — See here for more details
    Pukehina Fishing Club
    29 July and 5 August 2021, 7-8pm
  • LIGHTHOUSE FARMERS' EVENT — Invitation-only
    Wednesday 4 August 2021
    August — date to be confirmed
    Mid to late September — date to be confirmed

Message from the Chair

Andre Hickson
Wai Kōkopu (incorporated society) recognised early on that being community-led is the best way to achieve our goals.

We’ve had strong community involvement in our planting days, our farmers and landowners are fully engaged in collecting data and critiquing how we farm, and we're receiving great support from our sector group partners.

We now need your help to show our funding partners that we also have your support and becoming a member of the Society is one way to do that. Membership (Memetanga) currently costs nothing.

Our Constitution states the Society must have at least 15 members or a lesser number as permitted by law.
Membership is open to anyone who meets and maintains the membership criteria, which is set by the Board from time to time. If the Board amends the membership policy the amendment needs to be voted on at a Society meeting.

To become a member, simply complete the application form on our website, providing the relevant required information. We ask that members demonstrate an association with the community and a commitment to the kaupapa of the Society. 

In early August we will be having our first AGM where you can hear first-hand the past year's activities. We will advertise the date once it's confirmed.

Funding from BayTrust

From all of us here at Wai Kōkopu Inc., a massive thank you to BayTrust for their generous grant of $1million which will be committed over the next three years. These funds will create a step-change in how we can resource and include the community in our programme of restoration work. We acknowledge and appreciate BayTrust for their support of the Pukehina community, local farmers, mana whenua, and all enthusiasts looking for a healthy estuary at Waihi - Bay of Plenty! Read the article here.

Pictured: Community volunteers help replant natives along the Waihi estuary.

Wai Kōkopu to partner with GNS Science:

A rural water drinking water study

Alison Dewes — Project Manager
Intensively farmed catchments, drinking water supplies and diffuse contaminants, including the nitrate spillover to the environment – and its link to human health – is getting a lot of media attention at the moment. 
We know from our testing so far that there are high levels, especially in the lower parts of the catchment; hence, we want to help investigate further.

In September, Wai Kōkopu will partner with GNS Science to sample 12 rural water supplies. Testing will include an extensive list of heavy metals including lead, arsenic, aluminium etc and nitrates, and E. coli.

GNS Science are running a screening study in a range of catchments and we are pleased they want to be involved in our area. This will involve an initial visit and scope of your water source, then two series of samples taken: one in late winter, i.e. September, and one in late summer, i.e. February.

Running all these tests can be pricey.  If you have a shallow bore and it supplies a few drinking water sources/homes, and you are in an intensively farmed area then participating in this study could be a good opportunity.

To register your interest or to check if your supply is suitable to be included in the study, get in early by emailing us at or phone or text Alison Dewes on 0212424949

Sub-catchment group update

Tom Anderson - Restoration Manager

We now have three sub-catchment groups underway – mid-Pongakawa, upper Kaikokopu and Mangatoetoe.

These groups have all met at least once, which have been great opportunities for farmers and growers to share ideas about their stream’s health and how their land use activities might be affecting it. Through your sub-catchment group, you can get to know other farmers who are doing restoration work on their property, who are Lighthouse Farmers, or who are interested in learning how to tread more lightly on the land.

Images: Mangatoetoe sub-catchment group's first meeting.

At sub-catchment group meetings we aim to share water quality monitoring results, hold workshops and farm field days, and provide farm systems and restoration advice to farmers and growers. These meetings provide an opportunity to connect with your neighbours to collectively work towards improving your stream’s health.

This month we are starting a Puanene-Wharere sub-catchment group (one group for two sub-catchments), and a 'lower estuary' group for farms and orchards between SH2 and the estuary. 

If your property is in any of the sub-catchments mentioned above and you’d like to get involved with your sub-catchment group email .

Farm advisors' collaboration
Alison Dewes

We had a great meeting and discussion with farm advisors on 15 July in Tauranga. Around 30 people attended, and we sought collegial help and understanding of how to bring everyone on the journey, sharing some recent findings and discussing next steps.

The restoration planned for 2021 is well on track. We discussed improving technology for better data capture for farm system modelling. There's a big focus on helping farmers navigate the journey of change towards lower footprint systems.

This catchment is not dissimilar to other catchments under stress around New Zealand where we're seeking nitrogen reductions and reduced loads to receiving water bodies.

In some areas where source drinking water is provided for cities, such as Christchurch, the degree of change is well over 60% reduction. In Rotorua lakes, the nitrogen loss reduction was around 40% from pastoral farms. In Southland with impacted catchments with high priority water bodies, the degree of change to restore health is also over 60% from 2018 levels.

Our estuary will need a significant nitrogen load reduction of more than 60% over time, so the task is clear — and challenging. However, it's encouraging that there is willingness to embrace the challenge and start on reductions with farmers wanting to know where they are at for both GHG and nutrient loss, with support from advisors.

Restoration: Past, present and future
Slides by Tom Anderson

When kōkopu thrived

Recollections, with Allen Stancliff

Allen Stancliff is a Fish and Game officer with Taranaki Fish & Game based in New Plymouth, and wrote to us recently to congratulate our team on our work in the catchment. We're pleased to share Allen's experience of collecting whitebait from rivers and streams almost 40 years ago, including those we're working to revitalise. 

As a kid in Edgecumbe and Whakatāne in Eastern Bay of Plenty, Allen Stancliff was "always down the Whakatāne River chasing whitebait".

In 1982/1983, Allen worked for the Fisheries Research Division of the organisation later known as Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) where he had his "dream job" — collecting whitebait samples from 13 Bay of Plenty rivers to see if damming the Motu River would adversely affect whitebait fisheries in the Bay. This included the Kaikokopū, Whārere and Pongakawa streams running into the Waihi estuary.

"Thankfully, the dam didn’t go ahead and in 1984 the motu was the first river in New Zealand to be protected with a national water conservation order," says Allen.

"The survey taught us a lot about the whitebait species coming into the various rivers and streams and there was a strong correlation between species and habitat, with kōaro preferring rivers with plenty of native bush."

Allen supplied this table, which shows that just 40 years ago Waihi estuary tributaries had the greatest proportion of kōkopu of any of the rivers surveyed — this of course makes the Wai Kōkopu programme very aptly named.
Allen says banded kōkopu preferred coastal lowland habitat and the Waihi estuary tributaries had the highest proportion of kōkopu whitebait in any of the rivers surveyed.

"It’s easy to imagine that prior to land drainage and development the swamps and small tributaries of the lowland catchment were teeming with banded and giant kōkopu (and tuna) and the area would have been a reliable and productive food basket.

"Habitat restoration along the Kaikokopū, Whārere, and Pongakawa Streams and in the wider catchment is a fantastic project that will help to maintain and enhance native fish populations, biodiversity and the health of the Waihi estuary."

Have you ever seen a kōkopu?
Video and article supplied by Forest and Bird

Our native freshwater fish are unique and wonderful just like the native birds you know and love. There are 51 native freshwater fish species. But most people have never heard of them. Have you ever seen a kōkopu, an īnaga, or a kōaro? Let's get to know the five migratory species also known as whitebait with the following video and descriptions. 

Get to know the five fish in whitebait (Video: Forest and Bird)

Shortjaw kōkopu 

They eat insects and love small, bush-covered streams, with plenty of boulders to hide underneath. Their threat status is nationally vulnerable — the same as whio and takahē.

Giant kōkopu
They start life as part of the whitebait catch and can grow to more than 50 cm! They love to live in streams with overhanging vegetation so they can feed on fallen insects. Threat status — declining.

Banded kōkopu
Named for their stripes, they can be found from low-lying peat wetlands to upland mountain streams above waterfalls. They are most active at night. Threat status — doing ok.

They have distinctive silvery bellies and speckled backs. Īnanga are the smallest migratory galaxiid, growing to 11 cm. Their threat status is declining - the same as North Island brown kiwi and little penguin/kororā. 

Love clear mountain streams and are expert climbers. Watch this one minute video to learn about their life cycle. Threat status — declining. 

Wai Kōkopu membership

Have you considered becoming a member of the Wai Kōkopu Society? By becoming a member of Wai Kōkopu, you will:
  • Receive our monthly pānui/newsletter and invitations to events and volunteer opportunities
  • Have input into how we prioritise funding
  • Be able to vote for future Board members at the Annual General Meeting in September
  • Easily access advice, support and funding for restoration works on your property.
To sign up, simply fill out the online form on our website.

Cawthron New Zealand River Awards

Do you know someone who is doing great things in the freshwater space? 

The Cawthron New Zealand River Awards celebrate the efforts and achievements of people who are committed to improving freshwater health. This year a $10,000 cash prize is being offered for the 'Catchment With Most Progress Toward River Health'. To enter or find out more, visit the website

As this is the first year with an entry process, the Awards' communications team is available to answer questions. Email .

Stay connected with our work

Thanks for your ongoing feedback about this pānui. We look forward to collaborating with you so we're all working together to inspire and invigorate the replenishment of the whenua and health of the Waihi estuary.

To sign up to our monthly newsletters email, and for more updates and information visit our website or Facebook page.
Become a member of Wai-Kōkopu Incorporated
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