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Published: 2009-09-01 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is being given nearly $100,000 of funding to enhance two peat lakes near Hamilton that are under threat from human land use activities.

The money is coming in the form of two grants from the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust and Department of Conservation’s Biodiversity Condition Fund.  It will help Environment Waikato support community restoration projects already underway at Lake Maratoto and Lake Mangahia at Rukuhia, near Hamilton.

The two lakes are thousands of years old and provide habitat for rare and threatened native plant and animal species.  However, they have been declining due to excess nutrients flowing off surrounding farmland, land drainage and introduced pests.

Environment Waikato has been working with farmers, local residents, volunteer groups and other agencies to tackle these problems.

Farmers are playing a major role by covenanting areas of land around the lake edges that are being fenced off from stock and planted with native sedges, shrubs and wetland species.  These newly protected “buffer zones” will create healthy native plant and animal communities around the lake margins and help to filter out excess nutrients flowing off surrounding farmland.

Environment Waikato and the Honda Tree Fund have already funded thousands of native plants for the projects, planted by volunteers and local contractors.

Now the council has secured a $46,000 grant from the Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust for further tree planting and restoration work at Lake Maratoto. 

“Lake Maratoto is a high priority for restoration, and the only peat lake left in the Waikato that still has a low pH,” Environment Waikato lake management officer Keri Neilson said.

“It boasts a 30-hectare area of vegetated wetland and is home to rare species, including the black mudfish, New Zealand dabchick, white heron and Australasian bittern.”

Environment Waikato has also secured $51,000 from the Department of Conservation’s Biodiversity Condition Fund for further wetland restoration work at Lake Mangahia.

The money is being used to control willow and other weeds, build fences and plant more than 10,000 sedges and shrubs around lake margins over the next three years.

“Lake Mangahia has one of the most diverse wetland native plant assemblages found around any of our region’s peat lakes, and it’s one of the only peat lake sites where kahikatea is naturally regenerating,” Ms Neilson said.

Planting will be carried out by the Lake Mangahia care group, which was started by local land owners and duck shooters.

Ms Neilson said Environment Waikato was keen to work with other private land owners and community groups who want to protect peat lakes.

For more information please call Keri Neilson at Environment Waikato on 0800 800 401.