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Hundreds of fish dead

The dry stream-bed was along the first right path when approaching from Colombo Rd, near the Douglas Park School planting signpost. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

Helpless at Henley
Work to clear intake blockage under way

Hundreds of dead fish were seen in a dry stream-bed, usually fed by Henley Lake, on Monday morning.

They were found by a concerned resident who declined to be named, but alerted the Times-Age of the matter.

The dry stream-bed was located along the first right path when approaching from Colombo Rd, at the first concrete culvert, near the Douglas Park School planting signpost.

The resident said he walked near the lake almost daily. He had first noticed the drop in water levels about a week ago.

“It was going down, and then it got lower and lower,” he said, “I was there yesterday, and it was right down, but they were still alive.”

As well as the well-being of the marine wildlife, the man was also concerned about the lack of water available in case of a bush fire.

A long-time farmer, he said it came down to a “common-sense” approach to keeping an eye on the water levels.

“You’re very conscious of water supply [as a farmer],” he said, “Once we get a decent fire out the back there’s nothing to put it out. There’s no water out there.”

The Times-Age was also alerted to a build-up of river metal in another location by another resident, which apparently cut off water flow to the newly installed flow control mechanism.

“No water can get to it, let alone into the lake,” the second resident said.

Not everyone thought the dead fish were bad news.

“One would think that, after the fiasco over water levels in Henley Lake a year ago, MDC [Masterton District Council] would be keeping a close eye on things, especially after the facility received a community award but no, such is not the case.”

He first noticed a lack of water flowing into the lake last Wednesday.

“With a staff of 100 or so would it be too much for someone to check on lake inflows on a regular basis and have something done when the need arises? In this case, a machine to shift some of the river metal and allow water to flow again into the water race that feeds the lake,” the resident said, “The flow intake technology recently installed on its own is obviously not enough.”

MDC manager of assets and operations David Hopman said the council had been aware of the intake blockage since last Tuesday.

“These blockages are caused by high river flows, and occur up to six times a year, depending on the weather. The automated intake still requires regular maintenance, and we have been waiting for river levels to drop so the blockage can be cleared.”

Work to clear the blockage had begun, Hopman said on Monday.

“The Opaki water race intake is also affected by high river flows, and the digger is currently clearing that intake.”

Councillor David Holmes said he had approached the council to ask them to clear the build-up of shingle.

“When the river’s dirty, in a flash it cuts out,” he said, “I’m assuming that this little stream has dried up because of that.

“The council can’t control the build-up of shingle, that’s the river flow.”

A council spokesperson clarified that gravel had blocked the entrance to the intake due to high river flow, however, the automated intake was separate to this.

“It is located several hundred metres down the intake channel [if it was at the intake point on the river, it would be susceptible to damage during high flows].

“It is linked to the Greater Wellington Regional Council river level monitoring point at Wardell’s.

“It receives ongoing data about river flow levels, and as they reduce, it automatically reduces the flow going to Henley Lake. The lower limit for water to be taken is 2400 litres a second.

“Below that, the intake is closed completely. This is the first summer during which the automated system has been installed.”

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