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2.1 Project Watershed

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The Waikato River Catchment Services Project began in 1999. It was branded ‘Project Watershed’ for ease of community recognition. It addresses the issues of flood protection, soil conservation and river management in the greater Waikato catchment. The greater Waikato catchment includes the Waikato and Waipa rivers as well as smaller rivers and streams such as the Maramarua and Mangawara, and Tongariro. Project Watershed incorporates the existing Lower Waikato-Waipa Control Scheme, the Lake Taupo, Reporoa, Paeroa Range, Waitomo and Karapiro/Arapuni Catchment Control Schemes, as well as ‘local’ flood protection works currently managed and funded by territorial authorities.

Environment Waikato initiated Project Watershed to work with the community to identify what type and level of flood protection, soil conservation and river management services required and to identify fair, equitable and sustainable ways to pay for those services.

Maintaining all existing schemes and protection works across the catchment requires approximately $4.5m per annum. There is currently an estimated shortfall of $1.3m per year for the maintenance of existing assets. The historical funding available has been insufficient to meet the asset management plan requirements, which set out the performance standards required of the schemes. The shortfall has been compounded by the potential withdrawal of Government funding (approximately $180,000) and diminishing royalties from sand mining.

The Region covered by Project Watershed is geographically diverse. It is made up of a range of different soil types and has some unique features, including large wetlands and peat lakes. What happens in one area of the catchment can directly affect what happens in another. For example, soil erosion issues in the Waipa catchment can contribute to sedimentation in the Waikato River and flooding in the Lower Waikato.

Project Watershed looks at the catchment as a whole. It aims to develop a fair, equitable and sustainable way to pay for essential services catchment-wide. While the needs of local communities are taken into account, those needs must be weighed up against the requirements of other areas.

In particular, Project Watershed formally recognises that the ultimate responsibility for the management of flood protection rests with Environment Waikato, rather than the territorial authorities. Accordingly the ‘local’ flood protection assets are included in Project Watershed to ensure that they are managed in the context of the overall catchment and that the works are funded appropriately. In some cases, for economic reasons, the responsibility for the day-to-day management of the assets and associated funding may remain with the territorial local authority.

Project Watershed - Basic Statistics
Total Catchment Area (Including Water Bodies) 1,434,605 hectares
Total Rateable Area Land Area 1,053,200 hectares
Approximate total number of rateable assessments 114,650
Total Land Value as at 31st May 2002 $13,508,928,546
Total Capital Value as at 31st May 2002 $25,158,835,570
Population (based on 2001 census):  
City - Hamilton 42 percent 114,318
Towns - Taupo, Tokoroa, Putaruru, Te Kuiti, Otorohanga, Cambridge, Te Awamutu, Ngaruawahia, Huntly, Tuakau
29 percent

Small townships and rural 29 percent 80,430
Total 100 percent 274,527