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Published: 2014-11-21 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is warmly welcoming up to $1.5 million in Waikato River Authority funding over three years for implementation of projects identified in the recently released Waipā Catchment Plan.

The plan is aimed at contributing to the restoration and protection of the Waipā River.

“The announcement of this proposed funding reflects the close collaboration that exists between the council and the authority,” said Waipā catchment committee chairman Alan Livingston, a regional councillor who also sits on the authority.

“This funding – agreed to after going through authority selection criteria - will help make a real difference to water quality in the river and protecting land use in the catchment as well. It will enable us to get on with the work quicker than we otherwise could have.”

The catchment plan promotes sustainable land uses and management practices, as well as providing targeted funding and assisting landowners to develop property or farm plans.

Mr Livingston said the catchment plan was developed by the committee, along with iwi and others, and with co-funding from the authority. It will be implemented in partnership with Waipā and Waikato river iwi and catchment stakeholders, and will actively involve the wider community.

Authority funded projects include farm planning and soil conservation in the Moakurarua and Kaniwhaniwha subcatchments, the Waipā Rerenoa – Waipā River Restoration Project and the Upper Mangatutu Stream restoration project.

The work under the catchment plan is to be coordinated by the regional council. The authority’s full funding is subject to the council also committing funding to the project as part of its 2015-25 Long Term Plan.

For 2014/15, up to 70 per cent of the costs of implementing a farm plan will be available to a limited number of landowners in two priority subcatchments. Landowners will be asked to fund the remaining 30 per cent through in-kind labour (fencing, planting, site preparation and weed control) or a financial contribution.

“In these priority areas, actions to reduce erosion, maintain water quality and protect biodiversity are likely to make the greatest difference to the health and wellbeing of the Waipā River and its catchment. Council staff will work with local communities, landowners and iwi to develop the subcatchment plans for these priority areas,” said Mr Livingston.

Providing council and authority contributions are confirmed after the Long Term Plan process, then up to 70 per cent of costs of farm plan implementation costs will also be available for Moakurarua and Kaniwhaniwha landowners from 2015-16.

The Waipā Rerenoa – Waipā River Restoration Project will be undertaken in partnership Maniapoto Māori Trust Board, Te Keeti Marae, Otorohanga District Council, the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust and local landowners. It will see a six kilometre stretch of the Waipā River and 700 metres of the Mohoanui Stream restored. Restoration work will include 14 kilometres of fencing and the establishment of 31,000 native plants, as well as the re-establishment of watercress in the Mohoanui Stream.

Derek Wooster from Te Keeti Marae said he was “really excited” about the prospect of being able to use the Waipā River again for recreational purposes.

“I recall the Mohoanui Stream running into the Waipā River before it was diverted and so today it’s exciting to be able to see the stream rejuvenated with the addition of native plants which will in turn create a healthy habitat for watercress, tuna and other species.”

The Upper Mangatutu Stream Restoration project will be under taken in partnership with local landowners and the Hamilton Anglers Club and will seek to stabilise and enhance a three kilometre stretch of the Upper Mangatutu Stream for the primary objectives of improving water quality, biodiversity values and recreation along the Mangatutu Stream. Over the next three years, six kilometres of fencing and 19,000 native plants will be established.

Overall, the plan sets 20-year aspirational goals for the catchment, including reducing erosion and sedimentation of the river, having productive soils, having swimmable water quality throughout the catchment, and providing good flood protection and enhanced ecological health.

The Waipā River’s major issue is poor clarity caused by sediment and it is the biggest contributor of sediment to the lower Waikato River.

Besides the committee, iwi and landowners, the work on the plan has involved the Department of Conservation, district councils, and Mighty River Power. Staff representatives of Waikato Raupatu Rivers Trust, Maniapoto Māori Trust Board, and Raukawa Charitable Trust, as well as Ngati Mahanga and Ngati Koroki Kahukura, were also closely involved in the development of the Waipā Catchment Plan.

For more information on the catchment plan visit www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/waipaplan