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Council Makes Progress on Water Quality Project

Environment Waikato is making good progress in developing its project to fence and plant riparian margins on the Region’s waterways to improve water quality.

The Council launched its riparian project earlier this year, intending to invest $10 million over the next 10 years in helping communities in protecting rivers, streams and other waterbodies in the Region. This week’s Environment Committee meeting was told several workshops had been held to develop criteria for doing the work and making the most of available funds.

Water scientist Bill Vant said the fund would be used to protect all types of waterbodies, not just streams. The aim was to “extend the best” as it was less cost-effective to restore highly degraded water bodies, especially downstream. The most effective method was to start upstream, where a quick response was more likely for fewer dollars.

Outstanding water bodies would be chosen, as outlined in the Regional Policy Statement. There would also be a concentration on connected ecological corridors, rather than working on patches of water.

The scientific criteria included on site and downstream water quality, water biology, and biodiversity on the banks. Staff had reviewed existing knowledge and held workshops with a number of scientific colleagues, with the results circulated to external experts and revised.

Environmental scientist Angela Davies said the project would concentrate on where work was already happening, building on work already being done with care groups under management plans or other work. Priority would also be given to applications which would demonstrate a good example to the local community and commitment from the landowner.

The aim will be to preserve high-quality areas and provide proactive management of good water bodies. A “significance” test would also be applied to recognise the regional or national benefits to important wetlands and estuaries.

Also important to the project would be having clear criteria, keeping administration and bureaucracy to a minimum, developing a simple contract, assessing each application on a case-by-case basis and developing partnerships and education.

A proposal would be put to the Council in February with details developed and established over the following six months. The project would be implemented from July next year.

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