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Landowners debate project watershed issues

Glen Murray landowners have given Environment Waikato a clear message that they want integrated flood protection works, but should be left to deal with soil conservation as they individually see fit.

That was one of the outcomes of a lively meeting called by Environment Waikato to background its Project Watershed that seeks to develop as new funding policy on a catchment-wide basis.

Top of the list of issues raised by the 30 landowners attending was the detrimental effect of koi carp that are muddying local waterways.

The meeting was told that while Environment Waikato shares the concerns there is no apparent solution to control the noxious fish.

The landowners expressed a further concern that Project Watershed was all about cleaning up the Waikato River so that Aucklanders could get better drinking water, but Environment Waikato deputy chairman David Peart said it wasn’t one of the drivers, although improved water quality all round was an indirect benefit.

Mr Peart said Project Watershed had arisen from a government decision to make local communities responsible for the cost of existing flood protection and soil conservation schemes.

The Lower Waikato has $38 million in schemes funded by central government, which will become totally the responsibility of local communities by 2003.

On top of this, the Local Government Amendment Act No 3 required Environment Waikato to maintain these assets and to apportion the costs of doing so over contributors and beneficiaries.

The Glen Murray landowners made it very clear they thought flood protection was still a national issue in their area and that central government had abrogated its responsibilities.

The landowners also thought power generators should be contributing towards the costs.

They expressed concerns about changes to sand dredging in the Waikato River that they believed had impacted on the level of flood protection.

When it came to soil conservation, the Glen Murray landowners said there was no need for Environment Waikato to compel such works because landowners were already planting trees where it was necessary to control erosion.

Mr Peart said after the meeting the feedback from local communities like Glen Murray was very important and would be taken into account in developing Project Watershed.

However, he also said Environment Waikato had statutory responsibilities that could not be ignored and while local people feel catchment services are of national significance to be paid for by central government, Parliament had decided otherwise.

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