Staff working on the Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway have dug in more than 1300 natives to protect an isolated pocket of at-risk black mudfish found in a farm drain.
The mudfish were found by the Fulton Hogan-HEB joint venture staff who are building the Huntly project for the NZ Transport Agency. The team were carrying out a fish recovery programme and were about to clear out the drain when the discovery was made.
The agency’s Project Manager Kevin Johnson says the fish recovery work had only just begun when the 16 mudfish were found.
“Work was halted and after the mudfish were measured and counted they were returned to the drain while a solution was discussed with Iwi, Department of Conservation and the Waikato Regional Council.
“It was agreed that the best outcome was not cleaning the drain but leaving the mudfish where they were and enhancing their habitat by fencing it and planting native plants,” Mr Johnson says.
This solution was outside the work required for the Expressway project programme but the Fulton Hogan-HEB joint venture team called for staff to volunteer their time to plant 1300 native plants – which had been grown from seeds sourced locally.
Black mudfish are found only in parts of the Waikato, Auckland and Northland and have a conservation status of “at risk – declining”. They are unique because they can survive in wetlands during summer months by burying themselves in the mud.
The 15.2km Huntly project will see 1.4 million plants put in the ground.
When complete the Waikato Expressway will be the key strategic transport corridor for the Waikato region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of Waikato and Bay of Plenty. The Expressway will improve economic growth and productivity through more efficient movement of people and freight.