Upper Clutha water management project secures Government funding

Funding from the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund has been confirmed to support an Upper Clutha project aimed at improving waterway health in the area.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says the Otago Regional Council - on behalf of the Upper Clutha Water Group - has received $385,000 from the fund to contribute to the group’s overall spending of $820,000 spanning the next five years. The funding will enable the group to develop and get under way projects to improve and maintain the long-term health of the wider Upper Clutha area including Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, and the Clutha and Cardrona Rivers. Water quality and health in the Upper Clutha area are vulnerable to the effects of continuing urban and rural development, land use changes and tourism growth. The Upper Clutha Water Group is a collaborative group made up of a wide variety of community and agencies associated with Lake Wanaka.  The group has been working over the past year to share information on water-related issues and activities. 

Its project focuses on three key streams of work:

  • The development and management of a water management plan supported by stakeholder entities, including iwi, urban residents, tourism operators, visitors, farmers, the Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, and scientists.
  • Strategic plantings to restore riparian margins in prioritised areas.  This project will be led by Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust in partnership with landowners, QLDC and other stakeholders and is supported by The Million Metres stream project, a crowd funding project set up by the Sustainable Business Network.
  • Applied research supported by Catchments Otago (a University of Otago research theme) studying stormwater quality in the Wanaka township to help inform safe water use, treatment and future infrastructure development by the QLDC, as well as improving stormwater oversight and water quality protection by the ORC.

ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said the council is pleased to support and collaborate with the group in the various projects. He applauded the group for its foresight and leadership in the community desire to deliver this long-term approach to waterway management.

Mandy Bell on behalf of the Upper Clutha Water Group said the group is delighted to have the funding confirmed. The Upper Clutha Water Group and Te Kakano will further engage the community to develop an integrated water management plan supported by science, she said.

They will tell the community more about the project at the ORC-led Lake snow public information session on 4 October at 7pm at the Lake Wanaka Centre. 

Youngsters excited by fish biologist's displays

Fascinating studies of different New Zealand animals are being conducted at the Zoology Department of the University of Otago; Pavel Mikheev, a PhD student originating from Russia, is currently leading a research project on brown trout. The species was introduced in to New Zealand more than 150 years ago and nowadays is a significant component of freshwater and estuarine ecosystems across the country, with high economic and recreational significance as a popular sport fish.  

Pavel at his Silverstream study site

Pavel at his Silverstream study site

In his study, Pavel is investigating brown trout populations of the Taieri River catchment (Otago Region), with the most intensive sampling taking place at the Silverstream - one of the main spawning tributaries of the Taieri river near Dunedin. The main aim of the project is to estimate competition between juvenile trout and resource use at habitats used intensively for spawning by the migratory sea-run form of trout. Pavel estimates the dynamics of migratory activity, density, biomass and growth rates of brown trout juveniles and their pressures on the stream invertebrate community during the first months of their life after hatching from “nests” in the gravel. The majority of the data is obtained using spotlighting at night; the most harmless method of intensive stream fish surveys. At night, fish are less active and it is much easier to see them using a powerful torch. Some of the fish are then captured by dip net, measured, weighed and released unharmed at the place of capture.

Pavel processing fish samples back in the freshwater ecology lab  

Pavel processing fish samples back in the freshwater ecology lab  

People walking near Pavel’s surveys at Silverstream took interest of his study, with many parents asking him to show the fish to the children. With University approval, Pavel displayed fish to the community at a weekend event using aquaria on the stream bank. Some brown trout juveniles and native fish were captured during the night survey, kept in cages in the river until the morning, when they were released into the aquaria.

Parents and children enjoyed seeing juvenile fish up close

Parents and children enjoyed seeing juvenile fish up close

Live fish in aquaria on the riverbank impressed both children and their parents! They were happy to learn so many new things about fish living in the stream nearby. The fountain of questions never stopped!!! And this fish lives here as well?.. How big can it grow?.. What do they eat?.. How do they spawn? What is whitebait?..  

Fish biology is fun

Fish biology is fun

But the best part for many was seeing two longfin eels! It was the first time the children and their parents had been able to see real eels up so close. The story about their life cycle got a lot of interest and more questions… After being shown to the children, the fish were released back into the river with applause and after end of the display, parents were asking to repeat this event one more time, promising to invite their friends.

Long fin eels - the stars of the show

Long fin eels - the stars of the show

Following the interest of the community and the undoubted significance of environmental education of children (and their parents!), we plan to repeate similar public events on a regular basis. Stay tuned!

Lab at the Lake Wanaka

Lab at the Lake Wanaka

On Sunday 2 April Pembroke Park in Wanaka was transformed into the ‘Lab at the Lake’, a family fun day, specifically showcasing what we do and don’t know about Lake Wanaka, work currently done, and possible future work. The Lab in a Box, an Otago Museum mobile science laboratory, housed fish, invertebrate and zooplankton hands-on displays, with live critters captured that very morning from Bullock Creek and the lake itself.

Central Otago Lakes Events: March 31st & April 2nd, 2017

PechaKucha Evening - Queenstown

Together Catchments Otago (University of Otago) and Otago Regional Council are co-hosting a Pecha Kucha Night in Queenstown, Friday 31 March at Queenstown Primary School Hall.

The theme of discussion is "The Lakes and I", with a line up of presenters telling stories about their relationship to the lakes, and how living near the lakes influences their lives - it promises to be a great event. 

Join us in celebrating peoples' connection to their beautiful lakes! This is a free event, so bring the family and friends. All welcome. Reserve your seat by emailing contact@catchmentsotago.org. Doors open 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start. 

Lab at the Lake - Wanaka

Come explore the lake and its catchment at the joint Catchments Otago and Otago Regional Council family fun science day, complete with the Otago Museum Lab in a Box; a shipping container kitted out as a functioning mobile laboratory. Chat with scientists, browse the displays and watch some short movies. 

This is a free event for families on Sunday 2 April at Pembroke Park (Market corner), open 10am-1pm. 

Upcoming seminar - Wednesday 29 June



Professor, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Invasive species are a major component of global environmental change. Aquatic systems are especially vulnerable to invasive species impacts. Much of our current understanding of aquatic invasive species impact is at the local or site level. In contrast, invasive species impacts are playing out across vast spatial scales on heterogeneous landscapes, and invasive species prevention and management efforts demands consideration of landscape-level impact. How can we ‘scale up’ an understanding of site-level impacts to the broader landscape scale? This talk will synthesize how aquatic invasive species distribution, site occupancy, abundance, and local impact ultimately determine landscape-level impact. Scaling up our understanding of invasive species impacts to the landscape level and recognizing spatial heterogeneity will help inform invasive species risk assessment, management, and prevention. While there remain many gaps in our understanding, current evidence suggests that the spatial distribution of aquatic invasive species impacts is right-skewed.



Upcoming Seminar - Wednesday 22nd June

Embarking on the development of a community-driven, collaborative lake/catchment management plan for the Upper Clutha: An opportunity for Catchments otago members to engage

Marc Schallenberg, Chris Arbuckle (Aspiring Environmental), Don Robertson (Guardians of Lake Wanaka)

The maintenance of good environmental conditions in the Upper Clutha catchment is a priority for many people living in the region.  High population growth and development rates in the catchment are causing some concern about potential impacts on the environment.  Recent changes in environmental early warning indicators and the appearance of "lake snot" in Lake Wanaka have focused community concerns about development around the lake.  The community has also expressed concern that the health and condition of the Upper Clutha lakes is not being adequately monitored.  Consequently, local interest is building to develop a lake and catchment management plan that expresses and accounts for local environmental, social, cultural and economic values of the region, that summarises information about the ecological functioning of the lake/catchment system, and that proposes management actions to safeguard environmental values critical to the future of the region.  

This seminar will present where discussion are at with regard to the development of a lake/catchment management plan and will discuss how experts could become involved in helping the community develop the plan.



Upcoming Seminar - Wednesday 11 May

Agriculture and the Environment – NZ in 2016. Is it time for a “One World – One Health” approach

Alison Dewes

The Centre for Sustainability is pleased to host a seminar next month titled “Agriculture and the Environment – NZ in 2016” presented by Alison Dewes. A fourth generation dairy farmer and second generation veterinarian, Alison is a firm believer that our future food production systems have to be profitable and resilient while protecting and replenishing ecological health. She will discuss the need for a a paradigm shift from the current model to greater focus on wellbeing (one world: one health) where increasing production (output) and debt (stress) is replaced by increasing profit and wellbeing (resilience). 

Wednesday 11 May, 4-5pm; Centre for Sustainability Seminar Room, 563 Castle Street