Is your project near fresh water? Here’s what you need to know

Many of New Zealand’s plant and animal species are protected by various legislation, including the Resource Management Act 1991, Conservation Act 1987, Wildlife Act 1953, and Freshwater Fisheries Regulations 1983. What this means is that generally it’s illegal to destroy, harm, or kill many of New Zealand’s species and their habitat. This issue will focus on freshwater fishes and what you need to know when working in and near waterways. Following issues will tell you what you need to know about lizards, bats, and other indigenous fauna.

Did you know that around 70% of New Zealand’s approximately 40 species of indigenous freshwater fish are Threatened or At Risk? So, we need to take care when working in and near waterways, to avoid or minimise the effects of activities (such as construction) on freshwater fishes and the habitats they live in.

Freshwater fishes are found in a wide array of waterbodies, from rivers and streams, to wetlands and farm drains, and urban stormwater and drainage networks. Many species are small, often well camouflaged and active mainly at night. So, people can be surprised at the number and diversity of fish species present in what might appear to be an otherwise benign looking waterbody.

While the protection of freshwater ecosystems is provided for by the Resource Management Act 1991, including protection of habitat for trout and salmon, unlike their terrestrial (land-based) counterparts, NZ’s indigenous freshwater fishes are not protected by the Wildlife Act.

However, what is less well understood is that there is legislation in the Freshwater Fisheries Regulations 1983 (Section 70 (1)) that states:


  • No person shall in any water intentionally kill or destroy indigenous fish.
  • No person, having taken indigenous fish from any water, shall leave the fish upon the bank or shore of any stream or lake…


What this means, is it is not illegal to catch and kill indigenous fishes, such as whitebait and eels. But, if fish are present in a waterway you are going to be working in, you must avoid killing these.

Easy enough, right? Just find the fish and move them someplace safe.

Not really.

Capturing, identifying, and transporting the fishes is often not as easy as it sounds. Trained ecologists use a wide variety of trapping, netting and relocation procedures, including many methods which require specialised equipment, training and certification.

“Moving fish” also involves getting approval and permits from several government agencies, and having good engagement with local iwi, as many of NZ’s indigenous fishes are of special importance to tangata whenua.

Boffa Miskell ecologists can quickly and efficiently assist you with this work, because our team already holds the various permits and approvals from the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation, and Fish & Game New Zealand required to capture and handle fish in both freshwater and marine environments.

Having these permissions in place gives our clients a head start. We can help with consultation and engagement too, through our well-established relationships with the relevant agencies and iwi around the country. We can also assist with further approvals that are sometimes required where fish are relocated to a new stream or catchment.

For more information about the permits and approvals you may require for fish salvage programmes, get in touch with one of our Ecologists in an office nearest to you.

Do you need more information? Contact our ecology team here >

For further information please contact Jane Rennie

18 January 2018