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Published: 2007-06-28 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s council has today approved Environmental Initiatives Fund applications worth $171,000. The EIF supports community-based projects that either directly enhance the environment or encourage environmental education. Nine projects received funding in this final round of the year, bringing to 15 the total number of projects funded throughout the year.

The Hakarimata Restoration Trust received $35,000 for rat control in the Hakiramata ranges. The Trust and Environment Waikato previously collaborated to control possums in the Hakiramata, leading to a considerable increase in the health of the forest. This most recent project will control rats over a smaller area. Rats are a serious predator on native birds such as tui. The rat control done by the Hakiramata Trust will assist EW’s “Halo Project” which aims to increase the number of tui in Hamilton and surrounding areas.

The council has also awarded $10,000 to the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park Advisory Group to help produce a business plan for the development of the park, which is situated near Hamilton Zoo. The park is a 20-year project to create a habitat sanctuary representative of the original ecosystem of the Hamilton Basin. Hamilton City Council was instrumental in making this project a reality and Environment Waikato is pleased to be able to assist its development.

Environment committee chairman Paula Southgate praised the Waiwhakareke project as “a very good example of a range of partners working towards regaining biodiversity inside an urban boundary”.

Other larger successful applications included $35,000 to the Tokoroa-based South Waikato Achievement Centre for new recycling machinery and $35,000 to Hamilton Junior Naturalists for a land purchase in the Te Kauri Reserve.

The South Waikato Achievement Centre – which provides employment opportunities and community participation for people with disabilities – provides an extensive waste collection and recycling service in South Waikato District.

The land to be purchased by Hamilton Junior Naturalists will assist with the upgrading of the club’s lodge at the reserve. The Te Kauri-Waikuku Trust provides environmental education to more than 1,000 school children each year at Te Kauri Lodge.

Greater security for biodiversity restoration projects around New Zealand will be provided by a $34,000 grant for rodent tracking and control research at the Maungatautari ecological island sanctuary. Like Maungatautari, biodiversity restoration projects around the country are starting to eradicate introduced predators that decimate native species. However, even after eradication is achieved these projects must be prepared to respond to re-invasions – either from accidents or deliberate vandalism. Mice and rats are particularly difficult to detect and there is little research on how they would move in a pest-free area like Maungatautari.

The Maungatautari Trust will use specially trained dogs to detect rodents. As part of the research some mice will be radio-tagged so scientists can monitor their behaviour, which will help the trust respond to any future incursions. The Department of Conservation is also supporting this important research

Meanwhile, some $14,000 is to be used for projects related to protecting native bats, New Zealand’s only native land-breeding mammals.

The Tongariro Natural History Society has been awarded $9,000 for research on bats in Tongariro National Park. The project, which will survey numbers of short and long-tailed bats within the park and the Kaimanawa Ranges, has the long-term goal of predator control to aid bat survival and protecting likely roosting areas.

Also, a PhD student has been awarded $5,000 for further research on threatened long-tailed bats in Kinleith pine forests. The bats have been normally seen as native forest dwellers but a recent study found they use pine forests extensively in Kinleith Forest. A research aim is to provide forestry companies with information that will help them protect bats.

The Environmental Defence Society will receive $5,000 to publish and distribute a report on integrated coastal management.

The Coromandel-based Barlow Family Trust has been awarded $3000 to help with planting and other work associated with restoring rare native species to the Port Charles area.

Cr Southgate said the grants meant the council had fully allocated its $250,000 Environmental Initiatives Fund budget for 2006-07.

“We are very pleased to support this wide range of environmental initiatives by various parties in the region. These grants highlight the fact that we need a wide network of like-minded organizations and individuals to work together if we are to best protect the Waikato environment.”