November 29, 2017

Partnerships helping to restore Northland whitebait numbers

Forming partnerships with community groups and schools is an essential part of Fonterra’s efforts to protect and improve New Zealand’s environment.

This is especially important in the places where we operate and our Maungaturoto site in Northland is a great example of how these partnerships are helping to make a difference.

By joining forces with the local Maungaturoto Primary School, Otamatea HarbourCare and The Whitebait Connection, we are helping to create an environment where aquatic life, especially whitebait, is now thriving.

Recent work includes planting flaxes, cabbage trees and Manuka along the Wairau River - which runs behind our Maungaturoto site - to provide shade, erosion control and perfect spawning spots for whitebait.

Whitebait numbers had been declining over recent years due to the very specific conditions they need to spawn but the area behind our Maungaturoto site is an ideal location due to the ‘salt water wedge’, the area where fresh and salt water meet, and plants help protect their eggs from the sun.

Environmental Manager at the Maungaturoto site Steve Gale says he and the rest of the team see real value in working with partners on this project.

“Just like the little spotted Kiwi, Inanga (whitebait) are classified as at risk so we must do everything we can to ensure that they thrive on the Wairau River. Our ongoing commitment to water quality in the catchment and maintaining a quality habitat on the riverbank will improve egg survival rates,” says Steve.

“Partnerships like these also help us to teach the next generation about the importance of caring for the environment. The help of Maungaturoto Primary School has been central to the project and the kids are planning more visits to the river to monitor how their planting work is paying off.”

Kim Jones, Whitebait Connection National Co-ordinator says the school’s involvement in the project is pleasing.

“It’s great to give the children a first-hand and meaningful experience of what they can do to support and enhance their local environment, and to give them a deeper understanding of what they can do to make a difference.  With many of their parents also involved in the planting project we are able to share those learnings with different generations of families.”

Steve agrees, saying it’s an ideal opportunity for the children to get outside for some real world practice in conservation and environmental management.

“These children are the future decision makers for our communities, so by instilling the right values and sense of ownership we can rest assured they will look after this place for years to come.”