Daleton wetlands – a “haven” for the mudfish. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

It’s not every day a group of fish stall a major building project, although this seems to be the case for Carterton District Council’s wastewater treatment plant upgrade project.

Plans are already underway for the construction of a 200,000m3 effluent storage facility to harvest inflows at when it is too wet to irrigate to land and to manage stream discharges to times when the stream is in high flow.

However, the already tight timeline of a late-November commencement for construction could be delayed due to the surprise discovery of a mudfish population at the Daleton Farm area earmarked for storage reservoirs.

The endangered species will need to be trapped and successfully rehomed in a suitable environment before any construction can begin.

It is still not known precisely how many mudfish are in the area until trapping begins.

Infrastructure, planning and regulatory manager Dave Gittings said the team had no idea prior to the discovery that any mudfish were in the area and therefore couldn’t pre-plan anything.

Council was now in the process of getting the new proposed habitat on Gallons Rd signed off by the Greater Wellington Regional Council before volunteers from the Mangaterere Restoration Society could help rehome the fish.

The process included a detailed habitat study to show there would be a suitable food source and the correct mud depth.

“There will be controlled water levels, native planting and the correct species of grass for them,” Gittings said.

The council had also installed a solar pump from the bore to make sure the wetlands will stay wet enough for the fish.

Providing the new habitat gets the sign-off, the Mangatarere Restoration Society will need extra volunteers for early November to prepare capture areas in the drains at the present habitat and to net fish to relocate the mudfish to the wetlands.

The process is expected to take a total of three days.

Gittings said the mudfish discovery meant there was a small cost added on to the project but the main setback was the time and effort put into making sure they would get the approval in time for construction to start.

He said the Mangaterere Restoration Society had been a huge help by provided the additional planting required in the substantially larger habitat he referred to as “a mudfish haven”.

Council are also still in talks with iwi and Pukaha Mount Bruce, who are able to take some of the mudfish on a temporary basis but it would require extra permits to do so.

People wanting to take part in the mudfish relocation project can do so by contacting wastewater treatment plant project manager Bill Sloan 06 3794030.