Environment Waikato has informed 300 landowners in the Coromandel Peninsula area that they may be eligible for help in protecting a key ecological site on their land.
The Council has identified 36 sites on the Coromandel Peninsula and another 110 in the Waikato and Franklin districts as ecologically significant. The Coromandel sites cover 14,500 hectares and the four largest sites cover 7000 hectares.
Each site has been ranked for priority animal and plant pest control, such as possums, goats, ferrets, woolly nightshade and wild ginger.
Animal Pest Programme Manager Peter Russell said that the identification of sites part of the project had been large and complex, involving many sites and landowners scattered over a wide area. Many landowners expressed positive interest in the programme, he said, but rightly remained guarded until they knew how the programme would affect them and what incentives were available .
Participation in the scheme is voluntary and it would not be compulsory for owners to retire the land. However, if three quarters of the owners of a site wanted to carry out pest control and Environment Waikato thought it was necessary for the scheme to succeed, some legal measures were available to ensure everyone in an area participated. It was important that some sites were fenced to prevent stock having access, Mr Russell said, otherwise the pest control work would be ineffectual in enhancing the values of the bush.
Environment Waikato preferred to work with landowners and other interested groups such as District Councils, the QEII National Trust and the Department of Conservation in partnerships on issues such as plant and animal pest control and long term protection for ecological habitat, such as planting and fencing, he said, if appropriate for the site.
The Council would be discussing options such as voluntary protection and fencing of sites with landowners.
If they wanted to be involved, Environment Waikato could fund up to a third of the cost of stock-proof fencing around bush and wetlands and all the initial pest control work. Landowners would then be responsible for maintenance work, with assistance from Environment Waikato such as advice, monitoring and discounts on materials.
A number of the coastal sites are already included in the work Environment Waikato undertakes under the auspices of Project Crimson but there is an opportunity to expand the programme to other areas if there is interest.
Preference would be given to landowners who agreed to long term partnerships, including fencing and legal protection of the site. Other agencies could provide fencing funding and expert advice on covenanting and ecological restoration.
Mr Russell said that the programme was a long term one and that each site and the landowners will have different requests and needs and that these issues will be addressed as they arise.
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