Runanga farming koura in first

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Hokonui Runanga is now home to animals of the crawly kind.

On Monday, more than 100 koura (freshwater crayfish) were released into a pond at the Charlton Rd runanga by staff of plantation company Ernslaw One and runanga members in a first for koura farming in New Zealand.

Ngai Tahu, Ernslaw One and Hokonui Runanga are farming koura in a joint project.

Hokonui Runanga kaumatua Rewi Anglem said farming koura had been a great opportunity for the runanga, and expanded on the work already being done by Ernslaw One.

The koura would breed in the pond at the runanga and the young ones would be transferred to other ponds as they grew, he said.

They were easy to raise as nature provided everything they needed and the runanga would just leave them to it, Mr Anglem said.

Ernslaw One’s koura farming industry in the South is branded as Keewai.

manager John Hollows said the opportunity to work with Ngai Tahu and runanga throughout New Zealand came after a guide was produced on how to farm koura, and funding was awarded from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Fund grant.

Keewai was approached by Ngai Tahu to work with iwi to see if koura could be farmed successfully in joint ventures, Mr Hollows said.

The lowdown Josh Aitken (13), of Balfour, watches as Ernslaw One operations supervisor Callum Kyle explains about koura at Hokonui Runanga on Monday. PHOTO: NICOLE SHARP

Keewai had been in discussions with 12 runanga and Hokonui Runanga was the first to have the koura released on site, he said.

Keewai was working to have koura released at other runanga sites, but permits were required and the koura needed the right habitat.

There was a large market for koura and Keewai could meet only so much of the demand.

“We treat it a bit like the Bluff oysters. It’s a short season and everyone gets really excited about it.”

In raising koura, it was important to take into account consumers’ interest in knowing where their food came from and for operations to conform to New Zealand’s clean, green image, Mr Hollows said.

Ernslaw One had 10 forests in Otago and Southland with freshwater crayfish spread throughout the regions, from the Catlins to Avondale right across to West Otago.

“The localised population [of koura] is strong. Outside of that, most population is in the conservation blocks,” Mr Hollows said.

There was not a lot of koura left in the wild because of declining water quality, land damage and other changes to waterways where they lived, he said.

Farming them was now not only a commercial venture, but a conservation one as well as they were listed as a threatened species, Mr Hollows said.