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Council praises city sanctuary project

Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee has praised a proposal to develop a natural heritage sanctuary at Hamilton’s Horseshoe Lake.

The Tui 2000 group and other individuals and groups have been working with Wintec and Hamilton City Council to develop the concept of a protected mainland island sanctuary for native species in the city around Horseshoe Lake.

Tui 2000 representative Catherine Smith said the aim was to develop a natural heritage park, recreating the native plant and animal communities that once existed in Hamilton.

The park will be open to the public but protected from introduced predators by a predator-proof fence, providing habitat for threatened birds and other native animals and restoring the full range of ecosystems that used to exist in the Waikato basin. The sanctuary will link to Hamilton Zoo and Wintec, providing a place for schools, community groups and the public to become involved in ecological restoration and learn about their natural heritage.

The area is bounded by Brymer Rd, Baverstock Rd and Rotokauri Rd, owned by Hamilton City Council and is zoned for future urban development. The park itself is proposed to cover 60-80 ha, including the lake and its margins.

Native vegetation used to include wetlands and forest, including dense stands of kahikatea, pukatea, rimu, totara, tawa and kauri supporting hundreds of native plant and animal species including ducks, shags, fernbirds, rails, crakes, bitterns, kiwi, kokako, robins and other forest and wetland birds.

It would also have had tuatara, native frogs, geckos and skinks and a host of unusual insects and invertebrates.

The project will evolve over 10 to 20 years and involve schools, community groups and the public as well as the key agencies. Funding is to come from a number of sources including a community trust.

Cr David Peart said the formation of the sanctuary was a tremendous opportunity which had a real future.

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