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Published: 2001-03-12 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is planning to make $10 million available over the next 10 years to land owners wanting to fence and plant stream and riverbanks to improve water quality.

In its 10 year draft Strategic Plan released today, the Regional Council is considering a number of initiatives over the next decade to improve water quality. The significant investment of public money planned recognises the widespread benefit to the Region of protecting stream and riverbanks.

The Council says it needs to be more proactive in changing attitudes and behaviour to deal with pollution and improve water quality.

While direct pollution to rivers and streams is dealt with through regulation, pollution from urban and rural runoff is harder to see and clean up but is just as harmful to water quality – the issue most important to residents, according to the Council’s recent survey of environmental issues.

Planting banks stabilises the places where many species live, shading water to provide cool habitats. Fencing stops livestock from directly contaminating water and trampling the bank and provides an important buffer for neighbouring land uses.

Under the proposed new fund, land owners will be able to apply for a grant to meet the costs of riparian protection. The areas where the work is most needed and can improve water most easily will be targeted first. Any grant would be one-off and on-going maintenance of fencing, planting and pest management would be the landowner’s responsibility.

The fund would be developed from the existing Council Investment Fund. Part of the revenue has previously been returned to inflation proof the fund but this will now be used for the proposed riparian protection strategy.

The draft Strategic Plan also includes proposed changes to the Waikato Regional Plan to protect Lake Taupo from the effects of increasing nitrogen flowing in from land uses in the catchment. While the lake already has the most thorough riparian protection of any water body in the Region, routine monitoring has shown clarity dropping and water quality worsening.

The area’s pumice soils allow nitrogen to leak into groundwater and bypass riparian vegetation. The Council says it is likely to take a further three years to reach agreement with the community on changes planned for the Waikato Regional Plan, which provides guidelines on how resources can be used while maintaining high environmental standards.

Environment Waikato is also planning to take a more active role in waste minimisation in the Region. Its survey indicated that waste was one of the three biggest environmental issues facing the Region and while disposing of wastes is not a core function, waste minimisation efforts needed to be co-ordinated across the Region to ensure the best possible results.

The Ministry for the Environment is developing guidelines and changes to legislation that will change Environment Waikato’s approach to waste activities, with funding possibly coming from Central Government’s proposed waste disposal levy.

The contents of the draft Strategic Plan will be outlined in Environment Waikato’s quarterly magazine EnviroCare which will be delivered to all households in April and full copies can be obtained from the Freephone 0800 800 401 or on the Council’s website www.ew.govt.nz. The draft will be considered by the Council on March 29. Submissions on the Plan are open from April 17 to May 15 and can be posted to Freepost 646, Hamilton East or emailed to strategicplan@ew.govt.nz.

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.