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Published: 2014-10-15 00:00:00

Good progress on tackling highly invasive aquatic pest plants in the lower Waikato River area is a feature of an annual report presented today to Waikato Regional Council’s integrated catchment management committee.

Alligator weed and yellow flag iris can clog waterways, crowd out native species and affect the productivity of farmland. They are a particular concern downstream of Huntly but can also be an issue in other parts of the region.

In response to the threat they pose, the council and other organisations last year obtained a regionwide resource consent to tackle designated aquatic weeds by spraying wherever they occur, using the most effective method available. Then, in the past financial year, the council employed a specialist aquatic weeds spraying contactor, who uses flat-bottomed vessels to reach hard to access places.

The work of this contractor, combined with another boat-based contractor and aerial spraying, had seen 80 hectares within the 2200 hectare lower Waikato River delta area treated for alligator weed, the 2013-14 report for the regional pest management plan said. The combined cost for control and surveillance work on a range of pest plants across the region last year was about $260,000.

“This has been a sound investment in keeping on top of plants that have significant potential to disrupt natural habitat and farm productivity in our region,” said committee co-chair Stu Kneebone.

Other report highlights included the council’s ground-based and aerial possum control operations exceeding targets in all areas. “Excellent possum control results are a credit to the regional council’s dedicated contractors,” the report said.

The Hamilton Halo possum and rat control work to bring native birds back to the city had continued to have solid success, with pest control targets being maintained in seven bird breeding areas near the city.

Council chair and Hamilton councillor Paula Southgate, who has taken a close interest in Halo, said: “We continue to get very positive feedback from the community about the numbers of tui in Hamilton and it’s exciting to see the recent reports of kereru and bellbirds in the city.”

The council had also laid the groundwork for a saving of $196,000 over three years on possum control by amalgamating 17 treatment areas in the north-west Waikato into three new management areas and implementing multi-year control contracts.

“This latest annual report highlights very good work by staff and contactors when it comes to containing animal and plant pests,” said the committee’s other co-chair Stuart Husband.

“The council will continue to look for savings and efficiencies in its pest control work going forward, so that we protect native species, the character of natural areas and the productivity of our land-based industries,” Mr Husband said.