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Native fish in Le Roys & LSB

Banded Kokopu above the waterfall

Here's a photo of banded kokopu in a pool above the waterfall in Le Roys Bush - taken 11 January 2015.
The adults are easy to spot - but look carefully for the juniors.
Research being undertaken by a team from Northcote College to understand more about kokopu feeding and breeding patterns.
An interesting new discovery is that some kokopu have been seen leaping out of the pool to catch insects on the bank.

These disappeared during 2015 while the new boardwalk was being constructed. As at January 2016, a few fish have been seen again during the day.
Too soon to know if they will have the unique jumping behaviour.

Protecting native fish habitats and white bait

Here are a few links of possible interest about whitebait and native freshwater fish:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ourchangingworld/audio/2601730/improving-inanga-breeding-habitat (July 2014)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/252469/whitebait-at-risk-of-extinction (August 2014)

Native and other fish in the Little Shoal Bay and the wetland and tributary streams 

Our apologies for the loss of the photos - we will restore these when time permits.

Follow this link for news of: What's coming up?

Fish history:

  • In pre-European times, the local iwi (Kawerau) saw the area up harbour from Little Shoal Bay as a rich resource for fishing.  A Kawerau elder told stories of the plentiful supply of sharks/mackerel to the painter who depicted the story in the mural above the stairs in the Northcote-Birkenhead Yacht Club at Birkenhead Wharf
  • A Birkenhead resident who grew up in Northcote after WW2 recalls that when he was a boy one could catch large quanitities of whitebait off the Northcote Wharf.  Northcote oral histories tell of local families whose children used to earn more money in a week selling whitebait door to door than a man could earn in a full time job
  • "When I walked home from school through there in the 1940's the water was much deeper than it is today and more of a defined channel. There was a bridge over which would have been only about 4 meters long and surrounded by willows. There was a solid path from either end of the bridge. The only fish I remember are the eels as we used to dangle scraps of food tied to lengths of thread, from the bridge to tempt the eels up to the surface. "
  • During the 1950s and 1960s, a former mayor and local butcher Graham Stott recalls floundering in Little Shoal Bay. 

The 21st century: 

  • A survey led by the local Forest and Bird branch with the "Fish Man" Paul Woodard found both inanga and kokupu in the early 2000s
  • However an evening walk in 2007 reported elsewhere on this site was disappointed not to sight any native fish
  • To address concerns, the LRB&LSB committee received sponsorship from the ARC's CEF fund for 2008 to monitor fish life in the wetland.  This project initially was assisted by Megan Beard the NSCC Environment Department Wai Care officer and Paul Woodard. 
  • As it progressed, Northcote College students became interested and with input Monique Zwaan, the NSCC EnviroSchools officer for the school, the project has transformed into the following excellent programme at Northcote College.
  • From 2008, a scientist and teacher at Northcote College, Dr Kit Hustler, has been leading a team researching native fish in the Le Roys and Little Shoal Bay streams (and also in the stream that flows from Kauri Glen down to Onepoto Basin)

Where have all the freshwater bullies and koura gone?

  • Kit Hustler and the fish monitoring team noted an almost complete absence of koura and bullies in the Le Roys Bush stream in 2010
  • The question is - when and why did they go? Presumably there was some major pollution that killed off the fish in the stream - but the species which swim back from the harbour have repopulated.  But koura and bullies could not regenerate.
  • A local resident remembers finding koura (native crayfish) in the pool below the big waterfall, where the lily ponds were.  He was born just before WW2, so this is in the late 1940s/early 1950s.
  • We are keen to hear from anyone who can help identify when they were last seen? and maybe what caused their disappearance.
  • We got a quick reply to our last question from Colleen Durham of the Birkenhead Historical Society: she gave various possible causes - the most plausible is:  "The petrol station on the corner of Onewa Road / Birkenhead Ave (was HB Nelson) had a major petrol spill and some of that might have flowed down the valley into the stream. This was in about 1964 - 65 about 1000 gallons of petrol flowed in the stream."
  • Once we have done more research we may be asking if it would be worth releasing some bullies and koura in the stream? Let us know what you think. 

What is happening to the 300 plus kokopu that live above the waterfall

In the first three months of 2012, monitoring of the stream above the waterfall has not been able to find any kokopu.  If you are aware of any pollution events that may have occurred in the Highbury, Enterprise Street, or the upper parts of Hinemoa Street and Onewa Road, please email LeRoysBush@gmail.com.

Kokopu are still being found in other parts of the reserve.

The Northcote College and Wai Care survey - October 2008: 

  • Northcote College science teacher Dr Kit Hustler and a  team of students are investigating how mosquito fish are affecting Little Shoal Bay reserve's native flora and fauna.    They are maintaining a wiki about their project.   This is a real demonstration about how teaching about the environment in schools can contribute to scientific skills while extending literacy and numeracy.
  • In March 2010, the progress of this research was featured in the NSTA and is also available on the web at http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/north-shore-times/3404324/Teachers-lab-a-local-stream.

    Some quotations from this article:
    "Kit Hustler ... has been monitoring fish in the Little Shoal Bay stream since August last year. ... "People said there were fish in there but nobody knew how many, what type or what they’re doing there."  So he set about monitoring the stream with several of his students.  ... They have been catching fish, weighing and photographing them before returning them to the water. ... He has discovered there are about six species of fish in the stream with the largest measuring about 22cm long.   "They’re obviously making a living here."   He believes the fact they’re surviving in the stream is a testament to how well people in the area are treating the water.  Mr Hustler has been studying the impact gambusia – mosquito fish – have on other fish and is trying to discover if there is a pattern to which types of fish are located in particular parts of the stream... "

Gambusia, Kokopu and the Northcote College Fish programme:

Northcote College science teacher Dr Kit Hustler and a  team of students are investigating how mosquito fish are affecting Little Shoal Bay reserve's native flora and fauna.    They are maintaining a wiki about their project.   This is a real demonstration about how teaching about the environment in schools can contribute to scientific skills while extending literacy and numeracy.

See the attached article from the NSTA 2 July 2009

From September to December 2009, the Kit and the Northcote College team have done further sampling in the wetland and the streams - see Wetland and stream sampling page.

On 11 September, the group found that there are still banded kokopu above the LRB waterfall.

These shots show a copy of a kokopu temporarily trapped for observation as well as the waterfall surrounded by the native plant Parataniwha.  The native fish are all released back into the wild shortly after trapping. The photo shows how high up the waterfall the kokopu climb.
The following shot shows a banded kokopu spawning.


Reproduced by permission. Copyright2009-2012 Dr Kit Hustler:

Other references: 


 Our grateful thanks for their support for this project go to 

  • the ARC (Auckland Regional Council)  Coastal Enhancement Fund 

  •  Megan Beard Auckland Council (formerly Wai Care project the North Shore City Council)

  • Dr Kit Hustler, Northcote College

  • Kate Jackson, Auckland Council

  • Monique Zwaan, formerly of  Enviroschools, North Shore City Council

  • Also Peter Crossley, Paul Woodard