Author Archive

Conservation Corner – NZ’s Native Fish!

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

Our native fish

Whilst secretive and not as showy as kākāpō, our 35 species of native freshwater fish are fascinating and an essential part of our biodiversity and eighteen of them need to move between freshwater and saltwater to complete their lifecycles.

Kanakana (lamprey) are ancient (360 million years old) and have no bones or jaws (only cartilage and a sucker-like mouth). The young live in the sediment of rivers before they turn bright blue and head out to sea. In the ocean they latch on to other fish and drink their blood until adulthood when they return to freshwater to spawn.

There are also migratory Galaxiid species, so named because their skin patterns look like galaxies of stars. Adults travel downriver to spawn in river mouths juveniles then swim back up the rivers, and, if they avoid our whitebait nets, start the cycle all over again. The Nevis galaxias was instrumental in preventing a dam on our beloved Nevis River.

Tuna (longfin and shortfin eels) can live for over 100 years. As tiny elvers, they journey up streams. After many years (sometimes up to 80 for longfin eels) they migrate to the Pacific Ocean where they breed and then die.

For all these species, it is crucial that they can move freely within and between their freshwater and marine habitats to complete their lifecycles. Manmade structures that physically block or change the natural flow of rivers and streams can get in the way of this migration. Some species are more affected than others for example īnanga are weak swimmers and can’t climb while kōaro and eels are surprisingly good climbers and can make it up even vertical surfaces. Adult kanakana put those suckers to good use suctioning onto surfaces though they are often thwarted by sharp or overhanging edges. Watch it for yourself here.

So what can you do to help?

You can identify these barriers and record them so that they can be fixed. It is as easy as downloading the fish passage assessment tool. Then, next time you’re out for a paddle, keep an eye out for culverts with a significant drop, undercut or extremely long structures, fast water flow through a structure or weirs that look too high for fish.

Spread the word, do it for the fish and the whitewater.

Jacqui Tizzard
WWNZ Conservation Officer


Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

A few words from a kayaker-come-packrafter

If you hadn’t noticed, packrafting is growing at a great pace, attracting trampers and adventure racers, and quite a few kayakers. One of packrafting’s principal attractions is the extremely short learning curve compared to whitewater kayaking. This exposes novice paddlers to moving water hazards from the first few minutes of taking it up, and more or less anyone can bomb down Grade 2 whitewater on their first day. This is a major challenge for Packrafting Association of New Zealand (PRANZ).

Our aim with PRANZ is to foster the safe enjoyment of packrafting. This means initially to set the benchmark for paddling safely and then to spread that culture of safety far and wide through the local paddling communities. Packrafters, like most kayakers, typically don’t form or join clubs. PRANZ has been running national and regional Meets and this has been a good social foundation.

packrafter on the Ashley river, launching over a drop

PRANZ does not want to become a quasi-commercial instruction provider, so the focus is on turning individuals into paddlers who are aware of their place in a group. We have called this our Kaiārahi programme.

The Kaiārahi roles are:

  1. Facilitate safety brief and gear check
  2. Demonstrate and encourage good group teamwork
  3. Display good paddling form or simply point to other better paddlers
  4. Demonstrate, facilitate and encourage good scouting behaviour and safety

If this sounds like a kayak club trip leader’s role, that’s no coincidence. PRANZ leaves instruction (personal skills) to commercial entities and focuses on the social aspects of risk management. Rescue skills, specifically technical skills like people and gear recovery in whitewater, are mostly taught by professional instructors. A lot of this will be familiar to kayakers and rafters, but there are some specific differences due to two factors;

  1. Packrafts are extremely difficult to roll, so a capsize means a swim. Packraft instruction is heavy on active WW swimming and rapid re-entry. Rolling isn’t taught.
  2. Packrafts after a capsize are light and buoyant, unlike kayaks. This can reset priorities in a garage sale event.

Similar? Packrafters too, love rivers and whitewater – difficulty according to taste.

Different? Most packrafters actively enjoy a 4-5 hour hike into a Grade 2 run.

See you on the river,
Hugh Canard

Aquatic Pests

Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

Aquatic pests!

Recreating in and around our rivers comes with big responsibility. As whitewater sports become more accessible and gear improves, more people are paddling and in more remote waterways than ever before. This is great for us, but if we’re not careful, it could be bad news for the spread of freshwater pest plants which can cause huge damage to river ecosystems and native flora and fauna. 

Didymo sometimes known as ‘rock snot’ is an alga that can form large blooms which look like soggy toilet paper. It grows on rocks and looks pinkish brown at the surface and cream in the water. Blooms typically occur in rivers with low nutrient concentrations meaning some of our most iconic and pristine rivers are most at risk. First reported in the Waiau River in 2004, it has sadly already invaded various waterways in the South Island. Thankfully it is not yet present in the North Island. 

Lake snow is a sticky, biological material made up of groups of algae that form colonies. Once lake snow gets into a waterway, it can take hold rapidly and form sticky, thick slime, the ecological impact of which is not well understood. Lake snow is now known from a number of large pristine lakes in Otago and Canterbury, as well as a couple of lakes in the North Island.

Pest plants such as Lagarosiphon (Oxygen weed) and Hornwort smother and suffocate aquatic life. They grow fast, displacing and shading our native aquatic plants, block waterways, and the rotting vegetation stops the flow of water which kills fauna and flora.

Removing these species once they have become established in a waterway is expensive and difficult so it’s best to prevent their spread. Weeds and algae can grab a ride on paddling gear and start new infestations. Didymo and lake snow are microscopic and can be spread by a single drop of water. Even if you can’t see it, you could be spreading it. The South Island is a controlled area for didymo meaning it is a legal requirement to clean all gear used in the water before going from one waterway to another.

Check out the video below for practical tips on how to ‘Check, Clean and Dry’ all your paddling gear whenever you move between waterways to prevent spreading pests. 

If you find unusual plants or algae you should note the location and take a photo or sample if possible. Inform your local DOC office or Regional Council as soon as possible or call the pests-and-diseases hotline on 0800 80 99 66.


Hutt River Te Awa Kairangi Whitewater Festival

Monday, December 13th, 2021

The Hutt River Te Awa Kairangi Whitewater Festival was a huge success this year. It truly was a whitewater festival including kayaks, rafts, duckies, and packrafts. The events raised over $100 for Whitewater New Zealand and a few dollars for the Hutt Valley Canoe Club.

One whitewater kayaker crashing into another kayaker

The kayakers raced down the gorge on Saturday, and while the races were happening in the gorge, the packrafters took on the lower grade 2 section to avoid all those mischief-making hardshells. Following on from the races everyone got together at the HVCC clubhouse for a BBQ in the afternoon and then moved the party to Kaitoke Regional Park.

On Sunday a large social group bought all the river crafts together for a social float through the gorge. We sent the racers down first who then waited for the social paddlers at the finish line so everyone could paddle out together.


After the races were all done, we hosted a prizegiving back at the HVCC Club Rooms. The HVCC has been hosting this event for over 50 years. 1971 is the oldest date on the trophy but there is reason to believe it has been going on longer than that. Congratulations to winners below will have their names added to the trophy:

Team Event: “All Over the Show” John Snook, Dai Edwards, and Warren Cheetham for winning Saturday’s team race.

Women’s individual race: Dina Fieman

Men’s Individual race: Liam Hopkinson

Team of four men standing together holding trophy shield they have just won  Two men holding trophies and celebrating together outside

Thank-you to everyone that volunteered and made donations including:

  • Hutt Valley Canoe Club and Marty Naplawa for organizing the team race and BBQ.
  • Nigel Parry for securing a no-take at the Kaitoke Weir with the Wellington Regional Council.
  • Martin Robertson for organising the packrafters and securing camping.
  • Georgia Bailey for her amazing guitar, mandolin, and singing skills at the bonfire.
  • Wellington Rafting Company for helping with safety.
  • Double Vision Brewery for donating some prizes.
  • Todd Henry for organising individual races.
  • All of the volunteers, racers, and participants who helped with safety, organising, BBQing and everything else. We could not have done it without you.

Mark it on your calendar for next year Fri. 30 Sept. – Sun. 2 Oct. 2022.

Thanks to everyone that came out and I hope to see you there next year.

Todd Henry


These photos and more from the day were taken by Mike Birch and can be found here.