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Funding for river planting approved

Ruamahanga River in flood last decade near Gladstone. PHOTOS/FILE

GRACE PRIOR
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The Ruamahanga River runs through Martinborough’s council ward, and south of the town centre.

Funding has been accepted for Greater Wellington Regional Council’s major rivers riparian management project, which will result in 120,000 trees planted over 100 hectares along the Ruamahanga River catchment area, with 30km of fencing placed.

Greater Wellington Regional Council has been successful in obtaining funding from the Ministry for the Environment for major rivers riparian management, council project manager Madeliene Playford said at this week’s Wairarapa Committee meeting.

The Times-Age could not obtain the exact amount of funding for Wairarapa works.

In August, the government gave $11 million to GWRC for flood protection and resilience from the post-covid-19 infrastructure fund.

Initially, 20ha would be planted throughout the Ruamahanga River catchment on public land.

After this, private land would begin to be planted, Playford said.

“We intend to initially plant public land as an example of the project, to encourage landowners to engage,” GWRC said in its report.

About 1200 of the 120,000 plants was needed to be sourced for the 2021 planting season.

GWRC was “hoping to stretch it to multiple sites and involve the iwi and community groups in the planting project”, Playford said.

The planting would cover the catchment from top to bottom, Playford said.

One of the main upcoming aspects of the planting project would be ground clearing and animal management, Playford said.

“Riparian zones can be used to maintain and improve water quality.

Once fenced and planted, they filter nutrients, sediment, and bacteria that leave the land as run-off.

Healthy riparian zones would improve the health of your waterway and enhance biodiversity,” Dairy New Zealand said in its riparian planting guide.

The hiring process is well under way for a riparian management officer for the project.

The project would generate 35 jobs over its five-year span, Playford said.

“The project is progressing quickly, the first year of planting will begin in 2021,” Playford said.

GWRC said in its report that: “Upper Ruamahanga catchment encompasses the upper reaches of the Ruamahanga River to the Waiohine confluence, and includes the Waipoua, Waingawa, Kopuaranga, Whangaehu, and Taueru [Tauweru] rivers from their headwaters within the Tararua Ranges and Eastern Hills to their confluences with the Ruamahanga River.”

The catchment has an area of about 1560km2.

The catchment has eight active river schemes, which have been in place for several decades, the council said.

“Riverside landowners are members of these river schemes and pay a targeted rate which goes towards maintenance expenses.”

When the plan was announced in July, council chairman Daran Ponter said this was the “first co-funding flood protection work since the 1980s and a very wise decision from the government”.

“We’re talking about two communities with a history of significant flooding events getting greater protection and sooner than planned; this gives families, businesses and communities much more certainty for the future,” Ponter said.

“In the first instance, this funding boost would bring forward works that will provide a much-needed boost to employment in the region while at the same time adding much-needed resilience to floods and a critical first step to managing the effects of climate change.”

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