How it all began.
In 2009 the Waitaki fisherpersons decided that something had to be done about declining salmon numbers in the Waitaki River. Realising Fish and Game were not in a position to ameliorate the position, we decided to do something ourselves, under the guidance of Fish and Game.
Fish and Game had commissioned NIWA for an independent report on this subject, which identified a number of proposals and alternatives for the enhancement of the salmon fishery and habitat.
A public meeting was held in January 2010, which resulted in the proposition that in conjunction with Central South Island Fish and Game, a salmon hatchery and rearing facility would be set up on the Waitaki River.
A steering committee was established to evaluate the proposal. It was decided that the Salmon Hatchery and rearing facility would be a similar system as successfully operated at McKinnons creek on the Rangitata. With one major difference, that the salmon reared will be entirely made of the Waitaki River brood stock (a condition placed by Fish and Game), thus preserving the unique genetic difference of the Waitaki.
Several hatchery sites where considered and the Bells Pond abandoned raceway was picked to base our rearing facility around.
Work immediately commenced with the clearing of the Bells pond site by a large group of volunteers over several weekends. The site was cleared, the trees cut down and turned into firewood and the raceway cleared of 30 years of detritus. To our amazement the raceway was undamaged and fit for purpose.
This was followed by a $20,000 donation from Meridian energy to help us forward.
This site needed a lot of work as it had been overgrown by gorse, blackberry and pine trees. An access way needed to be constructed for access onto the land. The land owner Alister Bell was very supportive of our projected and gave us the use of the land and raceway for our project.
The original water intake was broken and after consultation with the Morven Glenavy Irrigation Company, they were very pleased to be able to assist us in our project in any way they could, provided we obtained the necessary consents for our operation.
Paul and Sarah Smith offered us a site with some land. Water testing revealed the site was ideal, and there was a source of electricity close by.
Over the next 12 months and many working bees, the Bells pond site was quickly established with a bridge being built over the the irrigation race, a container being delivered on site and a compound fence being built and the compound covered by bird netting. Consents to use and divert water and to discharge water where obtained. The water intake was repaired and a gallery intake was inserted. A 12 volt solar power electrical system was installed by Lynn McGregor, one of our volunteers.
Mckinnons creek offered to incubate our first lot of eggs, and our first trapping of brood stock took place in the Hakataramea River.
The male and female adult salmon where transported by Fish and game to Welcome stream where they where held in a purpose built pen to await ripening. Once ripe the eggs where transported to McKinnons Creek for fertilization and incubation. Several of our members travelled to McKinnons creek to tend to the eggs during incubation and many an hour was spent in removing dead eggs.
Work then commenced on setting up the Welcome Stream site at Paul and Sarah Smith's property. As a result of Pauls insistence, we had the site surveyed and Paul's solicitor wrote out an easement document which was very generously written in favour of our organisation, which has ensured that the facility will remain in our hands even if the land owner changes.
Consents where sought from the Council for land use (Operate a Salmon Hatchery) building consents and then the various water consents. Fish and Game where instrumental in obtaining the water consents.
In 2011 consents for change of land use and building consents came through from the Waitaki District council, and a 9m by 6m kit set garage was purchased. Over several working bees a concrete pad was laid down and on labour weekend volunteers ,Tony Ah Lee and Jeremy Brazil built us our incubation shed ably assisted by 4 other members.
In October 2011 our first fish returned from McKinnons creek to Bells pond, a disappointing 3000 arrived out of 60,000 eggs having been delivered to McKinnons creek. We then discovered that Dydimo was a curse and this pest has caused us many headaches and hours of work.
A vacum cleaner was designed to clean the raceway, this was sucessful but problems soon occurred with Dydimo blocking the pump. Cleaning teams where formed to look after the raceway and fish. These teams had 6 members and where required to attend to the raceway every second day for up to three hours per visit.
In April 2012 our first batch of smolt where fin clipped and on the 8th of May 2012 , 2011 smolt where released into the wild.
Growbest Australia Ltd through “lucky star” donated us 5 tons of fish food valued at $20,000. This was a hugely unexpected donation and because of this we are still benefitting from it today as it meant that we had a years supply of fish feed in advance.
May 2012 - Poachers where apprehended at midnight trying to steal adult salmon from the fish trap. They where dealt with by the courts and received a paltry $350 fine plus court costs.
The incubation facility at welcome stream became operational and 31,000 eggs where placed in our incubators to go with the 50,000 that where hatched on our behalf by McKinnons creek.
A team of volunteers led by Russell Goodsir worked for 11 days and raised and levelled the sides of the Bells Pond raceway, making it posible to raise 56,000 smolt to an average weight of 90gms.
July 2012 - Les Crosbie constructed the metal framework for the clip on screens for the sides of the raceway, after it was discovered that at certain times of the moon cycle the fish would leap out of the raceway.
October 2012 - Approximately 61,000 smolt were delivered to Bells Pond raceway.
January 2013 - Disaster. Approximately 52,000 ,16gm average weight, fish died because the river dropped from 250 cumecs to 165 cumecs overnight and our fish ran out of oxygen. 7,800 fish survived. This was a major set back for our project and prompted thoughts on establishing a second facility at Welcome stream to avoid having all eggs in the one basket. This effectively meant that a production year lost.
April 2013 - Our second batch of smolt where fin clipped (7,800) and in May the smolt where released in Welcome Stream.
May 2013 - Salmon trapping was hampered by repetitive flooding events.
July 2013 - A team of volunteers from alliance freezing works led by Wayne Ross constructed a large stainless steel tank for welcome stream. This tank has sufficient volume to contain 4 cubic metres of water. This is to be placed in the Welcome stream incubation shed to supplement space for on growing smolt.
August 2013 - Welcome Stream site securely fenced and riparian planting of native trees on the north bank of our site. Approx 180 planted.
October 2013 - Approximately 16,500 smolt delivered to bells pond raceway. Preparation of a resource consent for the instalation of a salmon rearing race in Welcome Stream was commenced. Dougal McTavish, a hydrologist consultant was commisioned to prepare the application.
February 2014 - Another disaster. 15,000, average weight 65gm, smolt died due to human error . Over a ton of dead fish had to be disposed of in an offal pit. 1100 survived and where fin clipped and released early as there where insufficient numbers to ask the volunteers to spend the time looking after them. This was a tremendous kick in the guts for our project, and many questions where asked, with this being the second consecutive year of a major mishap.
March 2014 - An alternative emergency water supply was established at the Welcome stream site.
Selwyn Mercer , Murray Hansen constructed a purpose built salmon trap. This was designed to prevent leaves becoming entangled in the gates causing volunteers many hours of cold wet hands removing them.
April 2014 - Our first results from the 2012 release, 5 returning fin clipped adult fish weighed in by anglers. May not be many but it is a significant number. The newly constructed salmon trap was installed in the Hakataramea River for the first time. Again the trapping programme was harassed by flood events and after 42 days,12 female fish where harvested. Resulting in 16,500 smolt being hatched and delivered( October) to the rearing race at bells pond.
January 2015 - A continuous reading oxygen meter was installed in the Bells Pond Raceway, along with a remote start diesel pump. When the oxygen level drops below 60% the alarm will activate and two processes will take place. The remote start diesel pump will be activated and water will be pumped through a Venturi system to re-oxygenate the water within the raceway, and the system will ring several members and advise that the oxygen level is low and needs attention. Not long after the system was installed it was actually required and activated in the middle of the night. The system worked and the fish suffered no ill effects.
March 2015 - Our organisation purchased a caravan for use by the volunteers manning the salmon trap in the Haka River.
April 2015 - 16,500 fish fin clipped and released in May in Welcome Stream and the Hakataramea River. Two returning adult fin clipped salmon where weighed in by anglers.
June 2015 - Salmon trapping in the Hakataramea River for 29 days. Resulting in 16 hens being forwarded for harvesting. Unfortunately 11 further Hen fish where lost because of fish and game being unavailable to transport our fish when required. The delays caused the losses. A fin clipped Jack was found in the salmon trap.
October 2015 - Resource consent granted by the Otago Regional council after a hearing forced by the Moeraki Iwi, and who failed to attend the hearing. Approximately 25,000 smolt delivered to Bells pond raceway. Two days later thousands were discovered in the down stream section, having escaped from their enclosure. Many recaptured and returned to enclosure.
January 2016 - Work commences on the installation and construction of the welcome Stream raceway.
February 2016 - Graeme Sell comes up with the idea of a Venturi pump system to vacuum clean the Bells Pond Raceway. A prototype was developed and it worked. This now makes vacuuming the raceway of dydimo and detritus so much easier. No unblocking pumps every few minutes.
April 2016 - Fin clipping of 17,500 smolt. These where released into Welcome Stream, the Hakataramea River and a spring fed stream at Glen Louie. Three returning adult fin clipped salmon where caught by anglers and weighed in, with another one released. These were from the returning 2013 release of 1100 smolt. Salmon trapping delayed as the Hakataramea was dry. Attempted trapping in the springfed creek at Glen Louie.
June 2016 - Hakataramea now has water and trap relocated back to the hakataramea. 3 months trapping resulted in 28 salmon trapped, 2 females and 26 jacks. Only 1 large 20lb plus hen fish harvested. New method of transportation of eggs used. Resulted in a 95% hatch rate.
August 2016 - Approx 4,000 eggs hatched. New Welcome stream raceway is ready for inhabitants.
November 2016 - Caravan stripped of old paint. Looks good in bare aluminium.
December 2016 - Approx 4250 smolt released into the new raceway.
20th April 2017 - Salmon trapping in the hakataramea commences. Trapping for 2 months resulting in 10 females being harvested, of which seven where viable resulting in approximately 14,000 fry being raised. Incubation success percentage has increased markedly due to new harvesting procedure.
April 2017 - 7 fin clip adults are caught by anglers. Only two weighed for entry into our competition.
Returns from 16,500 released in 2015.
May 2017 - We purchase a upmarket log splitter for volunteers to use whilst fundraising.
July 2017 - 4000 fish fin clipped, and released directly into Welcome Stream.
August 2017 - Commenced work on setting up a web page. Purchase log splitter for fundraising.
September 2017- 12,000 smolt killed by Kirk Irrigation who turned our power supply off.
September 2018- No salmon trapped in Hakataramea River- non existant. Commence planning for captive brood programme.
2019- Fully enclosed bird cage constructed over Raceway at welcome stream.
- Burglars break into Bells pond. Apprehended due to security system.
- 1 female trapped in the Hakataramea river.
- Battery fundraiser raises $10,987.00.
- Security cameras installed.
- No fry released into Waitaki.
2020- 33 small female Captive brood stock harvested . Males trapped from Haka for fertilisation. No females trapped. Approx 17,000 fry raised.
- 430 brood stock kept at bells pond for harvest 2022.
- 2545 fish fin clipped and release into river from 2019 hatch .
- New Raceway built at Bells pond.
- 8 fin clipped salmon caught.
2021- 16,064 smolt fin clipped and released from 2020 batch.
- Approx 250 brood stock remaining for harvest in 2022, after early maturers removed.
- 400 smolt held at Bells pond for harvest in 2023.
- no fin clip salmon caught.
2022- Construct a purpose built fish transporter.
- Harvest 80 Captive brood stock females supplying approximately 230,000 eggs to Incubators.
- 5 confirmed fin clip Salmon caught from 2019 release.