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Council prepares environmental guidelines for river works

Environment Waikato has prepared a set of environmental guidelines for river and catchment management work programmes.

This week’s Operations Committee heard that flood control, river management, soil conservation and land drainage activities provided important protection to land and communities but could also have adverse effects on the environment.

The new guidelines would establish an environmentally sustainable basis for river and catchment management work and demonstrate regional leadership. They were influenced by existing plans and policies which incorporated biodiversity priorities, sustainability and triple bottom line considerations.

The guidelines aim to achieve a balance between effective management of soil conservation, river management, flood control and land drainage activities and the proactive management and enhancement of the environment.

River management activities could result in loss of biodiversity (variety of life), destablisation of beds and banks of rivers and lakes, accelerated erosion, effects on water quality, flow regimes and aquatic ecosystems, increased flooding risk, plant pest infestation, effects on archaeological sites, property damage, threats to infrastructure and compromise of existing design standards.

The community had increasing expectations of environmental management and use of river and catchment systems, the Committee heard.

The guidelines adopt a whole-of-catchment approach when assessing the effects of activities. The Asset Management Group would promote practices that enhanced the environment through environmental education, guidelines, incentives and demonstrating good practice.

It would identify environmental effects and opportunities to enhance the environment when maintaining and renewing existing assets or new works, and assess environmental performance when reviewing each asset management plan. It would also work with the community and other agencies on environmental enhancement initiatives to improve environmental performance and foster the development and expansion of good practices in the Region.

Biodiversity priorities would be incorporated into work programmes and improvements in environmental outcomes monitored regularly.

Cr Jenni Vernon said the Council was setting a standard for the community which others should follow. Environment Waikato should be a role model in environmental sustainability for the community, she said.

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