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Waipoua River slash raises safety issues

Safety concerns about slash being left on the banks of the Waipoua River in Masterton have been raised this week after residents noticed the remains of leftover vegetation from harvesting and pruning on their morning walk.

The residents expressed concern that if the river’s water levels were to rise, the debris would be picked up by the moving water and cause damage to infrastructure – as previously seen after Cyclone Gabrielle this year.

Following queries from the Times-Age, Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] confirmed the debris is the result of its vegetation maintenance programme, which began along the river last Wednesday.

The work – which was undertaken after a service request from Masterton District Council – included the removal of a dead willow tree from the river’s edge, layering overhanging willows at risk of falling in and causing blockages, and the removal of a large willow that had fallen into the river channel.

Environment group manager Lian Butcher told the Times-Age that GWRC intends on returning for the slash with a large mulching machine to chip the logs and branches.

It then will use the mulch on native plantings across the region to help retain moisture over summer and suppress weeds.

“The slash along the river is a natural downstream consequence of our maintenance programme,” Butcher said.

“When willows are pulled back to the riverbank and tied to protect flood-prone banks from erosion, small branches do break off and wash downstream. The debris is recovered by hand and taken away from the riverbank once the work is complete.”

Butcher said the council’s final clean-up is planned for later this week – but only if the river is low enough for its team to do so safely.

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