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Published: 2014-10-30 00:00:00

Two important new plans designed to help protect and restore the health of the Waipa River catchment and the Upper Waikato River catchment have today been endorsed by Waikato regional councillors.

“These Waipa Catchment and Upper Waikato Zone plans are significant steps forward for better managing water quality and other catchment-related issues in the two zones,” said Cr Stu Kneebone, a co-chair of the integrated management committee and a member of the multi-agency Waipa catchment committee.

“These plans were strongly led by our catchment committees who could see the need to significantly improve the way we were doing things. They were developed with them, iwi and others. They chart the way ahead by identifying priority matters for attention and actions for addressing them.”

Both plans will be complementary to any Waikato regional plan change developed under the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project which is looking at setting targets and limits for land-based activities which affect the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers.

The Waipa Catchment Plan, co-funded by the Waikato River Authority (WRA), builds on existing and former regional council-incentivised catchment programmes such as Project Watershed and Clean Streams. It is a non-statutory plan that sets 20-year aspirational goals for the catchment, including reduced erosion and sedimentation of the river, having swimmable water quality throughout the catchment, and providing good flood protection and enhanced ecological health.

“The Waipa River’s major issue is poor clarity caused by sediment and it is the biggest contributor of sediment to the lower Waikato River,” said Cr Kneebone.

“The new Waipa Catchment Plan takes an integrated approach to managing the catchment’s land and water quality issues to achieve the goals that have been set.

“This will include promoting sustainable land uses and management practices, providing targeted funding and assisting landowners to develop property or farm plans. Further communications with landowners will be carried out as the plan is implemented,” said Cr Kneebone.

“The plan will be implemented in partnership with Waipa and Waikato river iwi and catchment stakeholders, and will actively involve the wider community.”

While the Waipa Catchment Plan covers the entire Waipa River catchment, priority areas for focus have been identified. In these 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 Waipa River and its catchment. Council staff will work with local communities, landowners and iwi to develop sub-catchment plans for these priority areas.

As well as the Waipa catchment committee, which includes landowner representatives and representatives of Waipa River iwi, 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 were also closely involved in the development of the Waipa Catchment Plan.

Meanwhile, the Upper Waikato zone plan will guide the regional council’s integrated catchment management activities between Taupo and Karapiro to address declining water quality, erosion and land use change, loss of indigenous biodiversity and river-related catchment works.

Raukawa representative Stephanie O’Sullivan, who chairs the Upper Waikato catchment committee, said: “The Upper Waikato plan will support the new Crown-iwi co-management framework for protecting and restoring the health of the awa.

“A key part of the Upper Waikato operational plan is a prioritisation exercise due next financial year to identify the greatest pressures in the zone and where resources should be focused to get the greatest benefit,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

“It’s very satisfying to see that this operational plan provides a common framework for all regional council operational activities to be undertaken within the zone.”