Advocates 24/2

My name is Sam Coxhead. It is with excitement that I look to further Eric Wilson’s excellent efforts in producing this blog for the Advocates for the Tongariro (AFTR) website, over an extended period of time. 


It is my intention to cover a wide range of issues that impact the Tongariro River and its surrounds. If any of the Advocates members, or readers of this blog have any questions or comments to make, then please contact us via the contact tab on the website. 


At the recent AFTR committee meeting on 24th of April, we were fortunate to be joined by three officers from the Waikato Regional Council (WRC). Grant Blackie is Section Manager, Waikato and West Coast catchments. Deborah Nickel, Upper Waikato and Taupo Zone Manager. And Andrew Baddeley, River Management Officer. 


It was an interesting catch up and a wide range of topics were discussed. The AFTR for years now have been concerned about the lack of progress with regards to the actioning of the Tongariro River Plan. It is the role of the WRC to formulate and implement the river plan and this responsibility is solely with regards to flood mitigation. The plan has been formulated and updated, but we have not seen any action for three years. The lack of action is plain to see in form of increased vegetation riverside and on various islands on the river. The WRC have funding for the actioning of the plan, and these funds continue to be allocated appropriately. The accumulated funds have been ring fenced for use when the WRC are able to overcome the issues they have come up against. 


The issues the WRC face are not simple. Primarily, relationship building with Iwi and Hapu is required. These relationships include that of land owners, Turangitukua and finally the Trust board that acts on behalf of Hapu- owners of the riverbed. This takes time, but the motivation is there from the WRC. 


Encouragingly, the progress made on the Tauranga Taupo is significant. Works on that river are underway and excellent progress made. Grant Blackie pointed towards the relationship that Deborah Nickel has established with Iwi has been a significant factor.  


The AFTR will continue to monitor progress and has offered to assist at a number of different levels on this ongoing challenge. There are significant historical issues at play that have created this complex situation. 

The long awaited re-survey of the river bed level and flood protection assets is currently out for tender. This process is expected to take around two years. This will provide hard evidence as to whether or not the flood protection scheme would currently cope with a 1500m3/sec flood and identity areas of priority for future works. 


On a positive note, Sarah Tunnicliffe of DOC (Senior Ranger Biodiversity- Turangi) has sent the following to Richard Kemp of the AFTR, 


“I’m pleased to say that Central Plateau DOC (based in Turangi) are working in conjunction with the Advocates for the Tongariro River (ATR)  to tackle the weeds along the river. The common goal being to jointly improve the biodiversity by controlling plant pests along the river, and through this create areas where there are ‘view shafts’ or better views. This year we (DOC) have focused on the weeds in a few different areas as follows: 


Southern end of the Tongariro River Trail by the SH1 bridge. The track on the true right that goes up to the lookout has been cleared of weeds on the river side of the track, allowing a better view of the river at this point. With funds from ATR we have been able to replant some of these areas with lower growing native plants. We have also removed the flowering cherries and will control the blackberry on the farm side of the track to replant with manuka. 

True right of the Tongariro River by Judge’s pool – a large patch of Old Man’s Beard has been controlled by drone spraying. 

True left of the Tongariro River below Major Jone’s bridge patches of Celastrus (climbing spindleberry) and other garden escapees such as Clematis Montana using staff time. 


We are also working with the Advocates to look at areas of wilding pine and willow for future control.” 



Please be aware of Golden Clams. In May 2023 the East Asian Golden Clam was identified in the upper reaches of the Waikato River. This invasive pest has likely been around for a number of years and can decimate native species, the below is from Biosecurity NZ. 


Biosecurity New Zealand has launched a comprehensive awareness campaign to encourage all water users to help prevent the spread of gold clams from the Waikato River to other bodies of water. Here are some key points to remember about these invasive clams: 

  • Gold clams have been present in the Waikato River for 2-3 years 
  • They have the potential to outcompete native species for food and habitat 
  • They have been known to clog water infrastructure overseas 
  • While eradicating them from the Waikato River is unlikely, containment is possible 
  • Gold clams are classified as unwanted organisms under the Biosecurity Act, making it mandatory to Check Clean Dry after entering known infested waters. 
  • Extensive surveillance has detected their presence along a 99km stretch of the Waikato River, from Lake Maraetai downstream 
  • Early detection and local elimination efforts are crucial. If you come across a gold clam, please take a photo, note the location, and report your sighting to 0800 80 99 66 or online at 
  • Please be aware that gold clams, while consumed in parts of Asia, are not safe to eat in New Zealand due to their filter-feeding behavior and toxin accumulation 
  • It is essential to practice the Check Clean Dry method when traveling and accessing rivers and lakes. New requirements have been introduced in the Waikato, including the need to soak absorbent gear, such as life jackets, in hot tap water at 55°C for at least five minutes to eliminate small, sticky juvenile clams that may be hard to see 



On a lighter note, Eric Wilson AFTR Secretary had a hitchhiker join the boat whilst fishinhg out at the delta on the opening morning of duckshooting season.


Also, Richard Kemp has had some success at the delta fishing.


With the cold weather starting to move in, many will be watching the rain radar for freshes on the Tongariro and increasing fresh fish numbers that start to trickle through the system at this time of year. Current conditions are low and clear, but the river mouth activity around the lake has started to increase. 


Regards, Sam