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DoC speaks on freshwater plan

THE Department of Conservation is seeking changes to Gisborne District’s freshwater management plan intended to protect the district’s wetlands.

Speakers for the department gave evidence to the tribunal hearing submissions on the regional policy sector of the plan.

Counsel Teall Crossen said there had been significant loss of wetlands nationally including around Gisborne. Amendments the department is seeking include an amendment to Objective 4 so that all wetlands are protected, not just those in Schedule 3 of the plan.

DOC also wanted a new policy protecting the significant values of wetlands and a new policy with criteria to identify the significant wetlands of the region.

The Director General was also seeking a new objective in relation to over-allocation of freshwater that reflected the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management, to avoid any further over-allocation of fresh water and phase out existing over-allocation.

Wetlands poorly represented in conservationDOC’s biodiversity services ranger for the East Coast of the North Island, Jamie Quirk, said wetlands were poorly represented in public conservation land in this district.

Wetlands had been drained or infilled over time to provide for urban or farming development. The last remaining wetlands were in the Te Araroa area. There were smaller ones scattered throughout the district which were generally modified and prone to drought.

These had value for threatened or at-risk birds, fish and plants such as dabchicks and bittern.

Due to the scarcity of wetlands in the district any wetland was of great importance. For example the man-made pond in the Adventure Playground had a pair of resident dabchicks, which have a nationally vulnerable conservation status.

Mr Quirk said there were a number of key threats to freshwater fish in the Gisborne region, including a lack of baseline data, a lack of protection for spawning sites that had been heavily modified in the lower urban catchments, high sediment loads, barriers to fish passage, pest fish incursions, illegal fishing, poor riparian management, water quality issues, upland habitat and a general lack of public understanding around the environmental needs of freshwater fish.

To his knowledge there were two nationally vulnerable and seven at-risk fish species in the district. In comparison with other areas his personal observation was the whitebait fishery was poor. Illegal fishing included blocking whole streams with nets which meant no fish could migrate upriver. Out of season fishing and night time fishing also intercepted migrating fish.

There was a commercial imperative as the sale of freshwater species such as whitebait was legal.