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Published: 2007-08-14 00:00:00

A river improvement project Environment Waikato has just completed on Aria’s Mokauiti River has resulted in a marked improvement, according to a local farmer.

The project is the first step council is taking to develop a wider catchment management strategy for Mokauiti.

“In the long term Environment Waikato hopes to improve the health and stability of the entire catchment by stabilising hillslope areas, addressing bank erosion problems and improving forest health and water quality,” Environment Waikato area engineer Michael Duffy said.

“The Mokauiti River improvement project is the first step in this big picture approach. It covers a 1.25km section of the river that was not included in the Mokauiti river control scheme built in the 1980s.”

The project, on a stretch of river between Mokauiti dam and Aria Rd bridge, was implemented to reduce the flooding and erosion of nearby farmland, and to improve water quality.

Nuisance willow was cleared from the river to increase channel capacity, and 2.5km of fencing was built to prevent stock access to banks. More than 6000 native trees and shrubs were planted along the river’s edge, and gates and stiles were installed to provide fishing access for local iwi.

Local farmers donated land and Environment Waikato, Waitomo District Council and King Country Energy paid for the work.

King Country Energy energy supply manager Chris Fincham said his company had been pleased to support a project that benefited the local community.

“Because it was a significant project we felt it needed the support of all three parties and we’re very pleased with the way Environment Waikato has executed the work,” he said.

While the Mokauiti dam still has a controlling influence on the whole river system, Mr Duffy said the river now had a straight run through, giving more protection to valuable farmland.

“It hasn’t eliminated flooding problems altogether, but it certainly has reduced some of the localised effects and it’s the first step towards improving the health of the catchment,” he said.

Local farmer Keith Tucker, whose farm lies near the dam, said the works had resulted in a marked improvement.

“We’ve got 6.5km of river bank on our 400-hectare farm where it’s flooded for years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of rain recently, but we’ve had no floods across the flats since they cleared the willows out. This work has made a real difference and when the control gates are put on next year by King Country Energy it should just about eliminate our flooding completely.”

Gareth and Raewyn Williams, who donated a six-metre strip of land over 1.5km said the flaxes, natives and grasses that had been planted on their farm would look “fantastic” in a few years.

“It’s in a prominent position, so it’ll be a real showcase that will encourage other people to look after their streams and waterways,” Mr Williams said.

Mr Duffy thanked the community, Waitomo District Council and King Country Energy for supporting the project.