Promising results from WIL biodiversity stocktake

Over 200 sites of biodiversity interest, along with freshwater mussels have been discovered during a biodiversity stocktake of land and waterways within the Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) scheme.

WIL CEO Brent Walton says the stocktake has provided WIL with an overview of sites which could be further developed to enhance Waimakariri’s biodiversity values.

“WIL shareholders are committed to improving the environment and this process has provided us with some key areas of potential for further development.”

North Canterbury zone manager Andrew Arps says it is wonderful to see an irrigation company taking the lead on biodiversity.

“Our North Canterbury zone committees are heartened to see the way that WIL has taken a proactive approach to biodiversity. They are creating a connected overview of possible environmental enhancements that will have a wide-reaching impact on our local waterways.”

Key areas of interest identified in the report prepared by Dan Cameron Landscape Architecture include Burgess’s Stream, Hunter’s Stream and the Old Eyre River in Eyreton.  Dan Cameron says the enhancement of these areas could have a positive impact on water quality.

“It would be great if we could bring the farmers in these areas together to work on a joint project which would enhance water quality, and this could include riparian planting and wetlands.”

Dan says the discovery of a freshwater mussel bed in the Hunter’s Stream area could indicate the presence of native fish in the waterway.

“It’s a really positive find as freshwater mussels filter algae and other material from rivers and streams, reducing the incidence of algal blooms in waterways.

“Freshwater mussel larvae are carried inland on the gills of native climbing fish before detaching and starting to create a colony. It’s possible these mussels came from the Waimakariri River, but there’s also a chance that there could be native fish in the raceways.”

Dan also identified the Cust River as a future greenway due to its role as a major river corridor through the irrigation scheme.

“There are parcels of publicly owned land along the river that could be developed into wetlands. If these connected with other habitats, then there could be significant improvements to both biodiversity and water quality.”

Brent Walton says the stocktake results are currently being reviewed by WIL and he hopes to carry out further investigations on the most promising areas for biodiversity restoration.

“We’re keen to progress this further as we’re committed to improving biodiversity in and around our waterways.”