Freshwater discoveries for Wellington community groups

February 24, 2023

Mountains to Sea Wellington now has the pleasure – thanks to a new partnership with Wellington City Council – of working with conservation-focused community groups around Te Whanganui-a-Tara to support the exploration and restoration of their streams and rivers. Freshwater manager Liz Gibson tells us all about it. 

The aim of this project is to use our freshwater ecology expertise to support environmentally-focused community groups, which looks different for each group. 

It might be helping people to explore what lives in the water, learning how to scientifically monitor the streams, better understanding potential environmental issues, building plans to make the streams healthier for our native freshwater biodiversity and the community that connect to them, and develop guidelines on how people can keep themselves safe while getting stuck in to the mahi.

This is a really a community collaboration though: it’s Mountains to Sea working with community groups, but we’re pulling in the support of ranger and biodiversity teams from Wellington City Council, experts at Greater Wellington like the fish passage team members, and with businesses like Wilderlab who are looking at the long-term impact of restoration efforts through the lens of eDNA testing.  

Water is one of the most precious taonga in Aotearoa. It is essential to life and a foundation of our identity. Our waterways provide drinking water, are valued for a wide range of cultural practices, recreation, education, tourism, and ecological health. In Aotearoa our urban waterways have some of the worst pollution and habitat issues. Te Whanganui-a-Tara is lucky to have a huge number of dedicated community groups who are keen to care for these urban waterways. By supporting them with our knowledge and resources we can help them to look after these waterways and restore them to a state where they are healthy for all.

This is just a bit of what we’ve done so far - and I’m looking forward to much more this year!

DNA of rare snail found at city reserve

Gum Gully is a small reserve on Pukeahu/Mt Cook in Wellington City. It runs along Brooklyn Rd on the north-western side of Pukeahu. The Gum Gully group started out a couple of years ago with track building, through the weeds and Gum trees, to create a nice alternative route to the footpaths along Brooklyn Rd. 

With three small streams running through the gully the group contacted Mountains to Sea to get some advice on what could be done to look after them, so in November last year we supported the group to investigate the life in the stream and develop a restoration plan for the area. 

“Gum Gully is a place that is special to us,” says Carol Comber of Mt Cook Mobilised.  “It is close to our homes and for many of us where we have spent our whole lives, building fond memories and learning about the rich history of the area. 

“It is a special wilderness, hidden away from the road and the buzz of the city, with the shade of big trees and small streams. For us it is a great place to enjoy nature and find peace. We hold a sense of stewardship for the gully, recognising the big potential this place holds for us and the rest of the community who live nearby.”

The Gum Gully group is aiming to revitalise the gully so it is a thriving inner city wilderness space for both the native wildlife and the community. 

They have some work ahead, with the gully group keen to tackle historical rubbish, new plastic pollution, invasive weeds and pest animals, erosion, stormwater and road run-off contaminating the waterways. 

We supported them initially with site visits and eDNA surveys, which led to the discovery of banded kokopu and eels living in the stream. We also picked up some DNA from a rare endemic mud snail, Te Ahumairangi mud snail, so the group are excited to do a search this summer and see if individuals of the species can be located.

Easing the way for native fish at Pariwhero/Red Rocks 

Through a short, steep-sided valley of the South Coast flows Te Haape Stream, known as Hape Stream or Spooky Stream to some. It’s cared for by a group of local residents calling themselves the Pariwhero People – pariwhero is the reo Māori name for Red Rocks, where this stream flows to the sea. 

There’s a small concrete dam on this stream, a remnant of the old aggregate quarry, which was closed in the late 90's. We got together the with the Greater Wellington fish passage team and Pariwhero People for some spotlighting above and below the dam to assess if it posed a significant fish passage barrier.

It is likely this dam poses a significant barrier to all fish species, except the occasional banded kokopu and eel, so our next step is to look at how we can remove the barrier and open up the habitat available for our native species.

So where are the fish then? 

We worked with the Pukehinau/Kiwifoot Reserve group, part of the Kelburn Conservation Network, to investigate the small stream in the reserve. The stream is fed by rainwater runoff and empties into a culvert near Adams Tce. 

The groups wanted to see what was living in the stream and what can be done through their wider planting and restoration efforts to ensure that they are helping also keep the stream and soggy wetland areas of the reserve in a healthy state. 

We visited to check out the site and do some eDNA surveys. The habitat is great for invertebrates and the eDNA results showed that ecological health of the valley is excellent! The only thing missing is fish! So we're keen to help the group understand why there are no fish present in the stream in 2023, and decide what actions to take.

Keen to get involved? Find out more by emailing . 

Freshwater Manager
A powerhouse in freshwater conservation and a driving force within WBC. Always both a teacher and student, Liz leads the way for so much meaningful mahi within both education and community spaces.
For more of everything Mountains to Sea, follow us on social media!
⮐ Back to stories home