Regional | Waikato River Authority

Waikato River Authority not told about latest gold clam incursion

“Continual” communications problems over what’s happening with gold clams have spurred the Waikato River Authority to turn to the relevant ministers.

The group, which met in Taupō on Thursday found about a recent incursion near Lake Taupō through a press release and media reports.

However, a co-chairperson who found it “pretty frustrating” also noted proposed job cuts were looming for staff at the Ministry for Primary Industries, particularly in biosecurity.

The river authority met in Taupō on Thursday to discuss issues including its submissions to local and regional councils for upcoming long-term and annual plan proposals, and the appointment of a new chief executive after the sudden departure of its former chief executive Bob Penter in December.

Any decision on a new chief executive for the board would be more than a month away, the authority’s communications advisor Te Anga Nathan said.

On the pest front, board members expressed frustration and disappointment about the lack of ongoing communication from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ) and about why the authority was not directly informed when adult gold clams were found at the Lake Taupō Aqua Park in March.

‘Pretty frustrating’

The invasive freshwater clam was first found in the Waikato River near Lake Karāpiro in May last year and is now present in the river from Port Waikato to Lake Maraetai.

MPI said the clams had been in the Aqua Park’s lagoon, which is a stone’s throw away from the Waikato River, for at least two years before they were identified.

River Authority board co-chairperson Tipa Mahuta said there were “continual issues... with MPI in terms of communication” and the authority should meet relevant ministers to discuss improving it.

The board expected to have been told about the Aqua Park incursion before it became public knowledge, and would speak out and “develop plans to support actions on the river”.

Co-chairperson Stu Kneebone said he was surprised the board only heard about the latest gold clam find in the aqua park’s lagoon via a press release and resulting media reports.

“It’s pretty frustrating, and it’s not for a lack of trying either,” Kneebone said.

But, Kneebone said he had some sympathy for staff at MPI and BNZ who were facing jobs cuts and an uncertain future after the recent change in Government policy.

- Waikato Times