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EW keeps working with KiwiRail over weeds

Environment Waikato’s regional pest management committee has voted for a more detailed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with rail network operator KiwiRail Network on how pest plants are managed on the rail corridor.

KiwiRail Network’s operations general manager Phil McQueen, who attended yesterday’s committee meeting, undertook to get back to EW promptly on the proposed MoU, and emphasised his company’s willingness to work towards a solution.

He noted KiwiRail Network, formerly known as Ontrack, wanted to be a good neighbour and had spent a significant proportion of their national weed control budget in the Waikato region last year. KiwiRail had been working nationally with a range of organisations on cleaning up rail corridors and was keen on the idea of joint weed control initiatives in the Waikato, Mr McQueen said.

Environment Waikato and KiwiRail Network recognised that a lack of funding for this work over a number of years had led to a situation where neighbours of the rail corridor in the Waikato have controlled weeds, only to see the same weeds on adjoining KiwiRail land. Such a situation can lead to reinfestation of treated areas.

"It’s simply not good enough," said committee chairman Simon Friar. "We want to work with KiwiRail closely to get them to step up their compliance. KiwiRail cite difficult financial circumstances causing difficulties with complying. Other property owners face exactly the same difficult financial difficulties but most still manage to comply."

EW recently drafted an MoU outlining how the company and the council could work together better to deal with weeds on KiwiRail’s land.

Mr McQueen welcomed closer co-operation between EW and KiwiRail on tackling weeds on the company’s land in future. He explained how joint initiatives with other local authorities had seen big improvements for those communities.

He acknowledged that KiwiRail’s level of spending on weeds did not satisfy EW’s expectations but that it had made progress following a recent increase in investment.

At the suggestion of Cr Paula Southgate, the committee voted to strengthen the draft MoU by having it include measurable targets and timetables on weed control for KiwiRail to comply with.

"We hope we can get agreement with KiwiRail soon," said Cr Friar. "We don’t want this situation dragging on."

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