Environment Waikato’s Clean Streams Project is building momentum and more than 330 km of stream fencing has been completed around the Region – but that is only half the target.
This week’s Environment Committee meeting heard that after two years of operation, 334 km of streamside fencing has been completed and nearly 70,000 native plants planted to protect and improve water quality in the Region’s waterways with 209 farmers completing work. Farmers can receive up to a third of the cost of fencing farm streams and waterways under the Project, which is putting $10 million over 10 years into fencing and planting waterways.
Project Manager Alan Campbell said completion rate by farmers fell short of the promise, which was disappointing, and there was less planting than anticipated. Uptake so far was based on individual farmer interest rather than strategic application of resources to key areas, but this was expected to change this year.
Environment Waikato had begun monitoring some of the changes that should result from the Project in six streams in different parts of the catchment. Each was monitored for temperature, stream ecology and riparian vegetation.
A nursery accreditation scheme was underway, with nine nurseries now accredited but there was concern about the availability of plants at reasonable prices. A number of communities were interested in establishing nurseries.
Over three-quarters of this year’s available grant had already been allocated after only two months, indicating momentum was building and it was a huge step forward for the scheme. Slower than anticipated uptake so far was attributed to a degree of uncertainty in farming over the past two years. Now the industry was improving and applications were flowing more freely, so competition for the available funds will now become an important feature of the Project, he said.
Farmers had been told they need to complete approved projects in the years they are approved for or the money may not be available.
Cr Jenni Vernon said the challenge was to move more farmers to “fill the gaps” in catchments where some farmers had taken up the funding. Now that the momentum had been built up, working on complete catchments to get all streams fenced would be the focus of the Project.