A multi-year project to help restore and protect whitebait populations in the lower Waikato River is nearing completion. Funded by the Waikato River Authority, and undertaken by Waikato-Tainui and NIWA, the project involves research and physical works around spawning, habitat and fish passage. The five whitebait species are:


•Giant Kōkopu

•Banded kōkopu

•Shortjaw kōkopu


In many cases barriers such as culverts, floodgates and other instream structures prevent fish from reaching upstream habitats. One of the 5 whitebait species, Inanga, spawn in areas that are flooded by spring high tides. The installation of flood protection and land drainage has reduced this habitat to 7.5% of what it once was in the lower Waikato River. So far the project has:

•Created a selective fish barrier on Puketirini Stream to prevent pest fish species passage but allowing the passage of whitebait and tuna into upstream areas.

•Constructed a fish ladder at Bankwood Stream to allow fish to swim past the Wymer Terrace Culvert

•Constructed a fish ladder improve passage of whitebait species past Waterford Road culvert

•Designed and created new off-channel inanga spawning habitat in the lower Waikato River

•Repaired fish passes at Gibbons Creek •Design a fish passage solution for the NZTA culvert on Mangaonua Stream

•Carried out riparian planting and installation of instream woody debris to create fish habitat in a stream at Hopuhopu

•Trialling a fish friendly floodgate design at AkaAka

NIWA scientist Dr. Cindy Baker says the most recent focus is the movement of juvenile kokopu in the Puketirini Stream near Huntly.