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Council signs up for wetlands protection

Environment Waikato is to sign an accord to ensure good management of the Waipa peat lakes and wetlands.

The Policy Committee has considered a proposal for a Waipa Wetlands and Lakes Accord – an inter-agency approach to co-ordinate management of at-risk lakes and their catchments. The lakes are the largest group of peat lake habitat in New Zealand and are valuable refuges for many unique plant and animal species.

They are under threat from intensive land use around their margins, and nutrients and drainage are damaging them. Freshwater ecologist Grant Barnes told the meeting uncontrolled drainage could mean the lakes would disappear completely. Ad hoc decision making by the different agencies involved could prevent proper management of these unique resources.

Several agencies, including Environment Waikato, Waipa District Council, Department of Conservation and the Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game Council have been meeting to understand how to work together better and have developed an Accord to build effective partnerships.

Each agency has different responsibilities, and the Accord recognises the ecological, scientific, recreational and aesthetic value of the lakes and wetlands. It also promotes integrated management through development of effective partnerships. In time it is anticipated other interested groups, including community groups, business firms and individuals will become signatories.

The Accord’s objectives include promoting a collaborative approach to consultation and participation of interested parties for the sustainable use and conservation of lake and wetland resources. It also encourages restoration of degraded areas and associated species using sound environmental management and research, maintaining an overview of the status of lake and wetland resources and developing a regional network of experts to share information.

The Accord intends raising awareness of the functions and values of lakes and wetlands through education, information and awareness programmes.

Councillors requested the wording of the Accord reflect the intent to work collaboratively with affected landowners. They will reconsider the changes to the Accord in July.

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