More than $5 million will be spent on improving catchment services in the Middle Waikato area over the next 10 years if priorities identified by Environment Waikato are accepted by local communities.
The council has outlined its recommended works under Project Watershed, a two year programme that seeks to develop a new funding package to cover the proposed new works, as well as maintain existing soil conservation works within the Middle Waikato zone, which includes Hamilton City.
The intention of Project Watershed is to treat the whole Waikato catchment as one for funding purposes, but the catchment has been broken down into six separate management zones.
A meeting of the Middle Waikato Liaison Subcommittee, which includes Hamilton City Council representatives, has been told new soil conservation work will make up the largest part of the work proposed under Project Watershed.
Catchments at risk in the zone include the Piarere, Pokaiwhenua, Waione, Mangahanene, Karapiro, Waiarimu, Matarawa, Mangawhero, Mangaonua and Mangare. Lake margins are also at risk in some places.
The meeting was told that some of the streams that feed into the Waikato within Hamilton City boundaries are as much at risk as some of the rural streams, and there were potentially major problems with stream bank erosion on the Waikato as it passes through Hamilton City.
A lack of sediment passing through the Karapiro Dam was causing the Waikato River level to drop by five cm a year as it passes through the city and this was contributing to accelerated erosion.
The proposed work in the Middle Waikato zone entails pole planting 110 ha ($110,000), block planting 252 ha ($307,300) and 85 km of fencing to retire worst affected areas ($832,900).
Riparian planting will involve 649 km of fencing ($2,076,800), planting 445 km of stream bank ($1,625,000) and providing alternative water supplies over 300 km ($150,000).
River management works are proposed over 590 km, in the following rivers and streams: Waikato River and hydro lakes, Waitawhiriwhri, Mangaokotukutuku, Mangaonua, Mystery Creek, Karapiro, Waiteti, Mangare, Pokaiwhenua, Little Waipa and Huihuitaha at an estimated cost of $64,000 per year.
Areas where significant willow infestations may be dealt with include the Mangaonua, Mystery Creek, Karapiro, Pokaiwhenua and Little Waipa, where up to 25 km could be treated at an estimated cost of $280,000.
The sub committee was told existing soil conservation works worth $2 million needed to be maintained at an annual cost of $126,000.
Environment Waikato is undertaking an informal consultation process to identify what should be included in a draft funding policy and works programme. It is intended that draft proposals will be available in the second half of the year for communities to respond to before the final plan is put out for formal consultation in the first half of 2002.
Chairman Neil Clarke says Environment Waikato is legally obliged to maintain existing assets with an annual cost of $3.1 million, but Project Watershed is about creating a means to fund other catchment services that local communities might desire.