Dec 21, 2014

Te Au Nui (Mataura Falls) on the Mataura River is traditionally renowned for its abundance of kanakana (lampreys). This important mahinga kai has survived against the odds. In the late 19th century it was drastically altered when the Mataura Paper Mill and the Mataura Freezing Works were established on opposite sides of the river. Fifteen metres were blown off the top of the falls, and water was diverted for power generation. Fortunately, the rocky walls of the small gorge below the falls remained available for fish passage, and amazingly the kanakana adapted and continued to return to their original habitat.

In a good season, the kanakana come up the river in their thousands. They are harvested by hand between October and December. In 2006, a 10-kilometre stretch of the Mataura River encompassing Te Au Nui was approved as the first freshwater mātaitai reserve in New Zealand.

Photograph: Tony Bridge.

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