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Published: 2009-08-21 00:00:00

Waipa District Council has made steady progress and spent more than $190,000 to protect Waipa’s threatened peat lakes over the past 12 months, under a financial arrangement with Environment Waikato.

The Waipa district’s peat lakes are thousands of years old and provide habitat for rare and threatened native plant and animal species.  However, they are under increasing threat from land use change, drainage, nutrient enrichment and introduced pests.

Environment Waikato and WDC are two of the partners in the multi-agency Waipa Peat Lakes Accord, which was signed in 2002 to promote the protection and enhancement of the lakes. 

In 2005 the two councils signed an agreement that would see more than $600,000 invested in lake protection work over a number of years, after Environment Waikato agreed to loan WDC $650,000 to complete construction of the Maungatautari Ecological Island Project’s pest proof fence. 

WDC agreed to ‘pay back’ the loan with interest by buying land around priority peat lakes that will buffer the lakes from surrounding farmland.  The new reserve areas are being restored and planted with native wetland vegetation.

Reporting to Environment Waikato’s environment committee meeting in Hamilton recently, WDC project manager Tony Roxburgh said good progress had been made over the past year.

At Lake Serpentine, 1.8 hectares of farmland had been purchased and narrow riparian margins around North Lake significantly widened, fenced and planted with about 15,000 wetland trees, shrubs, rushes and sedges.

Pest willows had been aerially sprayed at Lake Mangakaware, and a joint project with the University of Waikato was underway to monitor water quality and other physical factors in Lake Ngaroto.  WDC has also been negotiating improved public access to Lake Rotomanuka.

Mr Roxburgh said land purchases around the lakes had not progressed as quickly as hoped, due to factors such as the recent drought, which had made wetland grazing areas more valuable.

But he said discussions with land owners were continuing and there were good prospects for further land acquisition at lakes Serpentine, Rotomanuka and Ngaroto.

Environment committee chair Jane Hennebry said four farmers had recently approached WDC expressing interest in selling their land.

“Land owner support is crucial to the success of the peat lakes project and as appropriate areas become available they could be considered for purchase within the current budget,” she said.

“Environment Waikato encourages land owners next to the peat lakes to seriously consider a land sale as it does provide the option for reducing the long-term impacts of stocking and run-off contamination of these sensitive and unique water bodies.”