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Published: 2001-03-12 00:00:00

Environment Waikato plans possum control on 826,000 hectares, and work on key ecological sites in the next year, according to its draft Strategic Plan released this week.

It is planning an increase in its Biosecurity Works and Services rate paid by rural landowners to cover increasing costs of pest management in the Region. It intends to have the Region free of bovine Tb by 2011.

Environment Waikato predicts an increase in the cost of pest management to allow for more direct control of animal pests, more community possum control schemes and protection of bush and wetland areas.

It says a review of the funding policy for pest management suggests an increase of 44 percent in the biosecurity rate to fund activities which directly benefit the landowner. The rate is paid by rural landowners on land over two hectares, and the increase amounts to an extra 20.5 cents per hectare.

The draft Plan says Environment Waikato’s role in bovine Tb control will diminish as the disease is eradicated across the Region, and the financial contribution to the Tb vector control programme will also drop. The focus will then shift to maintaining low possum numbers in Tb free areas and the funding will be allocated to this maintenance, and direct pest control in other areas.

New funding is also planned to boost funding to protect and improve water quality in rivers and streams. It is planning to make $10 million available over the next 10 years to land owners wanting to fence and plant stream and riverbanks, to improve water quality.

The significant investment of public money planned recognises the widespread benefit to the Region of protecting stream and riverbanks, the draft Plan says. The Council says it needs to be more proactive in changing attitudes and behaviour to deal with pollution and improve water quality.

While direct pollution to rivers and streams is dealt with through regulation, pollution from urban and rural runoff is harder to see and clean up but is just as harmful to water quality – the issue most important to residents, according to the Council’s recent survey of environmental issues.

Under the proposed new fund, land owners will be able to apply for a grant to meet the costs of riparian protection. The areas where the work is most needed and can improve water most easily will be targeted first. Any grant would be one-off and on-going maintenance of fencing, planting and pest management would be the landowner’s responsibility.

The fund would be developed from the existing Council Investment Fund using the part of the revenue previously been returned to inflation proof the fund.

The draft Strategic Plan also includes proposed changes to the Waikato Regional Plan to protect Lake Taupo from the effects of increasing nitrogen flowing in from land uses in the catchment. The area’s pumice soils allow nitrogen to leak into groundwater and bypass riparian vegetation. The Council says it is likely to take a further three years to reach agreement with the community on changes planned for the Waikato Regional Plan.

Also included in the draft Plan are maintenance plans for the Region’s flood control schemes and outlines for Project Watershed, which is aimed at providing better management of river works and services in the greater Waikato catchment under systems developed with the community.

The contents of the draft Plan will be outlined in Environment Waikato’s quarterly magazine EnviroCare which will be delivered to all households in April. Full copies can be obtained from the Freephone 0800 800 401 or on the Council’s website www.ew.govt.nz. The draft will be considered by the Council on March 29. Submissions are open from April 17 to May 15 and can be posted to Freepost 646, Hamilton East or emailed to strategicplan@ew.govt.nz.

This media item was current at its release date. The facts or figures it contains may have changed since its original publication.