The near twenty-year partnership between OceanaGold’s Macraes Operation and Fish & Game New Zealand produces as many fish as we produce gold, with up to 8,000 trout reared per year.
Perched on the edge of the Lone Pine Reservoir stands the Macraes Flat Trout hatchery, one of only two of its kind in New Zealand. Here, between 5,000 and 8,000 rainbow trout are reared annually to be released in ‘put-and-take’ fisheries around Otago for local licensed anglers to catch. The unique setup, located on the edge of the footprint of the active mine site, is jointly operated by the OceanaGold Macraes Operation and Fish & Game Otago.
Like many innovation projects born out of the Macraes Operation, the partnership started out as just an idea. At the time, conservation organisation Fish & Game New Zealand were closing the Bullock Creek hatchery in Wanaka around 221km away from the mine site. Avid fisherman and Processing Operator Greg Caldwell saw an opportunity to bring the hatchery to Macraes and suggested the Lone Pine Reservoir would make for a great new home, utilising the water pumped from the Taieri River to benefit the community before it joined the processing cycle to produce gold.
Together, with in-kind help from several local contractors, Fish & Game Otago and the OceanaGold Macraes Operation built the hatchery in 2004. This saw Fish & Game responsible for providing the hatchery equipment, stocking the hatchery and releasing the fish, while OceanaGold provided the building and water and managed care of day-to-day operations, including monitoring the water temperature and flow from the Control Room of the Processing Plant.
The secret to the hatchery’s success is the natural cyclical replenishment of the trout. Fertilised eggs are incubated before hatching into fry and maturing to a size where they can be released. Fertile rainbow trout habitually return to the water race adjacent to the hatchery from the nearby Lone Pine Reservoir when the water reaches a tropical 8 degrees Celsius. Here Fish & Game collect the eggs and sperm from the fish before they are released back into the reservoir and the cycle begins again.
Since its commissioning the hatchery has continued to populate dams and reservoirs across Otago with rainbow trout. These waters are chosen as they have no natural spawning or recruitment areas but are important angling destinations, so they rely on the hatchery for fish.
The OceanaGold Macraes Operation General Manager Mike Fischer said the benefits of the hatchery are realised for both the wider and local community, making the partnership even better.
“We keep some of the trout to populate the Macraes Lone Pine Reservoir as well, so this allows us to host community events like Take a Kid Fishing days where local kids have a chance to catch fish from the reservoir with their family,” Mr Fischer said.
From an initial capital expenditure of NZ$60,000 nearly 20-years ago, the hatchery partnership with Fish & Game continues to demonstrate how we create shared value with our stakeholders to benefit our communities.