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Published: 2008-04-02 00:00:00

There may be plenty of fish in the sea – but how many live in Coromandel’s Whangarahi River?

Environment Waikato has granted $5000 to a Coromandel landcare group to help it find out.

The Whangarahi River flows from hilly rural land above Coromandel town down through the rapidly expanding urban area and out into Hauraki Gulf.

It is not one of the rivers Environment Waikato currently monitors and its biodiversity values have never been surveyed.

Now, the Manu Waiata Restoration Society is raising $11,000 for a biodiversity assessment of the river and its tributaries, from its headwaters to its mouth.

Environment Waikato has granted the society $5000 from its Environmental Initiatives Fund to partly cover the wages of an ecologist, who will do a stock take of fish, insect and plant life in the river complex.

The society will raise another $6000 to cover the cost of documenting the survey’s findings and distributing the information, which could help land owners protect the river.

The grant complements riparian management work Environment Waikato has been doing to restore the Whangarahi River and Karaka Stream. Six thousand native plants have been planted beside the two waterways, with 2000 more to go in this winter.

Speaking at a recent Environment Committee meeting, Cr Paula Southgate said the study could provide valuable information about protecting urban streams.

Cr Ian Balme also outlined his strong support for the project, acknowledging the contribution of the society’s 50 volunteers.

“I think it’s important that we recognise and support the efforts of volunteers and I believe $5000 is a very small contribution to build capacity in the voluntary sector,” he said.

“Just raising awareness of the stream will be worth the money in itself and the fact someone’s prepared to take the time and effort to do this might spark some community effort.”

Environment Committee chair Jane Hennebry said the committee had considered the grant application carefully and believed the stream biodiversity project would foster a positive community outcome, with the findings assisting land owners as well as Environment Waikato.