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Study confirms benefits of passage way to ocean

A feasibility study into restoring a fish passage between the Rakaia River lagoon and Jollies Brook, near Southbridge, showed the potential for significant benefits for the environment in the area.  
The assessment included planning and ecological investigations to determine if there were any ‘red flags’ associated with the proposal and made recommendations for further studies to supplement known information.  
The feasibility study was carried out by senior ecologists from Pattle Delamore Partners (PDP)on behalf of Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture Inc (ESAI), which is inviting its members and any local residents to attend a public information evening near Leeston on March 31st, where the consultants will present their findings.  
The feasibility study concluded that opening up the waterway would provide passage for a variety of fish species to move in and out of Jollies Brook, improve the water quality through increased volume, reduce stagnation and restore Jollies Brook Lagoon to its former extent. 
Potential risks that were identified were possible passage of introduced predatory fish into the lagoon, the spread of exotic plants and possible damage to the existing ecosystem. 
“The study indicates many benefits, but there are some potential risks that can be managed, so ESAI considers it is important residents of the Rakaia Huts and farmers can hear from the ecologists, give their point of view, and be able to ask questions,” says David Hewson, project lead of ESAI’s Project Tinaku, which supports local farmers to increase biodiversity and improve the water quality in the area. 
The project is funded through the Ministry of Primary Industries’ Jobs for Nature Programme.

Landowners Lindsay Gilbert (left) and Tim Ridgen (centre) inspect where they could create a new passage to the ocean with consultants Winsome Marshall and Marty Bonnett (right), along with Project Tinaku lead David Hewson.

The idea to restore the Jollies Brook passageway was first raised by local landowners Tim Ridgen and Lindsay Gilbert who have both carried out extensive native wetland and riparian restoration work on their properties and are both members of ESAI.  
Jollies Brook runs through Lindsay’s arable farm. He shared his idea to open up a channel between the Rakaia estuary and Jollies Brook with Hewson who agreed it could be a great way to enhance fish passage and biodiversity in that part of Ellesmere. 
Funding by Environment Canterbury’s Regional Fish Habitat Fund enabled the in-depth feasibility study by PDP. 
This included an evaluation of the planning requirements for any work to be carried out, an assessment of predicted impacts of the proposal, any ecological benefits and risks and an overarching masterplan to show the proposed works areas, associated ecological mitigation and demonstrate the maintenance of existing vehicle access in the area.  
The field study gathered information on pest plant abundance, inanga and smelt spawning habitat, surface water connectivity and other fish barriers as well as current fish diversity. 
The public information evening will be held on Thursday 31st March from 5:30pm at the Lakeside Soldiers Memorial Hall near Leeston.  
Due to covid restrictions, attendance will require vaccine passes to be shown. If you are not able to attend, please contact Jo Fearn ( or 0210 304783) on the below contact details prior to the event and your questions and concerns will be put to PDP on your behalf on the night.  
The event and Q&A session will be filmed and available to view on the ESAI website 
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