Snake Creek Restoration Project

A project to turn a drain into a living stream



1.       Improved angling opportunities in the Selwyn

The Selwyn (Waikirikiri) was once one of the most famous brown trout fisheries in the world. It was very popular with Selwyn residents and Christchurch people. It was a very good place to teach children and as a result thousands of Canterbury people learned the sport of fishing in the Selwyn.

Unfortunately many of the spawning streams that feed the Selwyn have become degraded through poor farming practices. The Snake Creek project aims to restore one of the most important spawning streams of the Selwyn and thus improve angling opportunities in the river. It ties in nicely with other initiatives to improve flows.

2.       Make Coes Ford Swimmable again

Coes Ford was formerly a very popular swimming hole for Selwyn and Christchurch residents. Now water quality at the ford is poor and swimmers risk getting sick. This has been the source of much media publicity and frustration from the community. Analysis by the Canterbury Regional Council has found the Snake Creek catchment to be the source of the poor water quality. The Snake Creek project will improve water quality at Coes Ford and help make it safe for swimming again.

3.       Showcase an alternative way to manage drains

Snake Creek is a stream but it is classified as a ‘drain’ by the Selwyn District Council. Every year it is cleaned out mechanically, which is very destructive for aquatic life. This also maintains an over-widened channel with banks prone to erosion. Landowners are stuck in a costly cycle of drain clearing. The Snake Creek project will provide a permanent solution (in the form of shade from native plantings). It will be used to showcase an alternative way to manage drains.

4.       Increase native biodiversity

The Snake Creek project will increase terrestrial biodiversity (through planting of the stream banks) and in-stream biodiversity through improvements to habitat and water quality. This will help improve mahinga kai (particularly for tuna (eels).

Project funding

The $600,000 project will be completed over three years with funding from the following organisations:
Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund
Living Waters – DoC-Fonterra
Environment Canterbury
North Canterbury Fish & Game
Pub Charity
Selwyn District Council

Project Tasks

  •  Improve the slope of the banks to reduce erosion and allow native plantings that will shade out problem macrophytes (water weeds such as monkey musk and watercress).
  • Use gravel, woody debris and boulders to narrow the wetted area and add ‘pool, riffle, run’ habitat along approximately three kilometres
  • Widen the buffer widths along the stream to filter run-off of pollution from paddocks. Fix spots where pollution is channelled into he stream in ‘low points’ and build in sediment traps to trap sediment that does end up in the waterway.
  • Maintain or in some cases increase the flood carrying capacity of the stream
  • Closely monitor the restoration effectiveness in conjunction with the University of Canterbury’s CAREX team and Fish & Game.
  • Site visits and promotional material to show landowners, drainage committees, engineers and asset managers an alternative way to manage drains.

Read more about Restoring a Tributary of the Selwyn / Waikirikiri River – Canterbury