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Published: 2010-09-07 00:00:00

A group which works hard to improve the Tongariro River environment has won this year’s top Regional Weedbusters Award for the Waikato.

Advocates for the Tongariro River is a 200-strong group formed eight years ago to preserve and enhance the ecological values of the river and the health of its fishing areas.

A report prepared for Environment Waikato’s regional pest management committee next week – when the award to the Advocates will be handed out – said working to control weeds and pest plants was an essential part of protecting the region’s environment and economy. "Weedbusters Awards are about recognizing the dedication and commitment of community groups, organisations and individuals."

It said the Advocates had put a huge amount of hard work in recent years into controlling wilding pines which can suppress native plant regeneration and spoil the look of the natural landscape. Wilding pines are self-seeding exotic trees. With funding from the Waikato Ecological Enhancement Trust and EW, the Advocates have followed expert advice and drilled and poisoned the pines before leaving them to break down over time. The group has also controlled blackberry, cotoneaster, buddleia and broom beside the river.

The award runners up were:

· the Hayes Family, recognised for their very extensive work on their private farm land at Horsham Downs as part of a lakes restoration project at the Kaituna Wildlife Management Reserve

· the Wharekawa Catchment Care Group which has done much to tackle weeds alongside the Coromandel’s Wharekawa river and elsewhere in the catchment.

EW’s biosecurity group manager John Simmons said: "The efforts of the Advocates for the Tongariro River, the Hayes family and the Wharekawa Catchment Group are tremendous. It is voluntary work like theirs that go a long way towards controlling weeds which pose such a big threat to our environment and our rural-based economy. EW is committed to working closely with such groups for the benefit of the region."

Mr Simmons said EW was happy to provide advice to individuals and groups wanting to do their bit to fight weeds. The number to call is 0800 800 401. Weedbusters is a multi-agency group involving EW, the Department of Conservation and regional councils around New Zealand.