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Published: 2002-02-28 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to provide $40,000 towards native planting and habitat restoration on the banks of the lower Waikato River.

The Lower Waikato River Enhancement Society had applied to the Council's Environmental Initiatives Fund for funding towards the project. The Society is a multi-stakeholder working group involving the community in habitat restoration. It involves a large number of organisations.

The project grew out of the Lower Waikato Waipa River Control Scheme. Funding of $25,000 a year for four years had been allocated to the project from a subsidy provided by the Ministry for the Environment. The project is long-term and planning has been undertaken to 2020. By then the group expects to have planted 40 kilometres of the river bank in natives, enhanced stability of the river banks, aligned with the flood minimisation goals of the control scheme, co-ordinated community partnerships and improved community values.

The project has already established the working group, infrastructure and networks established for seed collection propagation, plant supply, labour and school involvement, completed three kilometres of fencing at Meremere and Horahora, and more than 20,000 natives have been planted.

All land owned by local authorities, DoC and Fish and Game Council has been mapped to enable identification of priority sites. The project will also trial the use of natives as river bank stabilisation as an alternative to willows, which are susceptible to sawfly.

This week's Environment Committee heard that the project was long-term, well-planned and involved a cross-section of organisations and individuals. It would benefit the Lower Waikato with improved habitat for native fish and invertebrates, improved nesting environments and food sources for waterfowl, and stabilisation of river banks and improved water quality.

The grantwould enable the Society to maintain its momentum and the community support it had gained.