• Kinsa Hays

Doing the Duckboard Walk for Whitebait / Inanga

Doing the duckboard walk

In the eastern Bay of Plenty a small river runs beside the road towards the estuary, creating a swampy area edged with rushes and mangroves and flax. Many people thought it a waste of space, good for nothing.

Blackened old flax seed heads beside the Matekerepu river

But Margaret and Stuart Slade who operate Cheddar Valley, their handmade pottery business across the road, thought otherwise. It’s a salt marsh, not a swamp, they said. It’s teaming with bird life and a breeding ground for whitebait, that delicious small fish so good in fritters. It needs to be nurtured not dumped in and took on the responsibility themselves to educate the public.

Cheddar Valley Pottery used to be an old milk factory.

Come for a walk with me and see what they and the Care Group have done:

Plantings for restoration of the riverbanks

Paths had to be created and pests eradicated:

Bait station on duckboardwalk

Foot-printing tunnel

It must have taken tenacity and patience and sheer hard work in difficult conditions to hack out the path. It took time to create 4 kilometers of walks, perseverance to find funding and willing helpers. And get the local council working with you.

Imagine trying to make a track through this – spider capsules in rushes

It takes Enviro warriors to achieve an aim

The inanga, or whitebait, is a delicacy that’s under severe threat from environmental degradation. From being caught by the bucketful, it’s now by the cupful. The inanga swim up from the estuary to lay their eggs at spring tide in long grass  trailing in the water from riverbanks. The eggs have the protection of the banks and the grass and one month later, at the next spring tide, they hatch and float out to the river. River-banks that have been cleared and are too high now for trailing grass are unsuitable for egg laying. The demand for whitebait is high. Positions along the Matekerepu River to catch the delicacy are fought over. What did the Care group do?

Inanga spawning pond. An opening from the river is dug to the pond. The bank is low. The grass is trailing and protective. Flax plantings behind it keep humans at bay.

Inanga life cycle poster teaches us what is happening.

Inanga spawning pond sign reminds us to respect it

Watch your step! Wear gumboots. Better still, keep away at king tides.

Bridge across the Matekerepu River to the farm beyond. Welcome swallows duck and dive and swoop above the reflections.

Toe wiggle time in the river.

This post is getting too long. I’ll have to share the birds and the baddies on the walk with you next time. In the meantime –

Why did the inanga swim up the river?

To see what was cooking.

#saltwatermarsh #whitebait #inanga #NatureCareGroup #BayofPlenty #RiverHabitat

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