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Focus on North Waikato’s Plants in Pest Strategy

The North Waikato’s pest plants and animals are under the spotlight in Environment Waikato’s proposed Pest Management Strategy.

Environment Waikato has proposed a new strategy to attack plant and animal pests in the Region. It outlines the way it will manage plant and animal pests over the next five years. There are management programmes, with different levels of regional participation proposed, for 71 plant pests, such as old man’s beard, spartina and privet and 22 animal pests, such as possums, goats, koi carp and magpies.

In the North Waikato the focus is on plants such as alligator weed, African feather grass, evergreen buckthorn and woolly nightshade, along with possum control, work on preventing the spread of koi carp, and controlling rooks.

The past focus on pasture weeds, such as ragwort and thistles, has gradually shifted to new, environmentally damaging plants which are just establishing in the Region.

Changes in farming practices, particularly in dairying over the past three to four years, have reduced ragwort and thistle infestations. While there are still rules for these weeds, they have become less significant in the overall Strategy.

There are a number of land and water-based sites of alligator weed and original infestations have been spreading to new canal areas. There is also the danger of boats and nets spreading the weed. The strategy proposes to eradicate it by 2017.

The number of African feather grass sites is limited to near Te Kauwhata and Taupiri, and it is proposed to control it by 2007. Evergreen buckthorn is regarded as one of the worst weeds in the Auckland Region, and there is a danger that it will spread into the area. Environment Waikato plans to get on top of the problem before it becomes established as it has in parts of greater Auckland.

Woolly nightshade is at its heaviest infestation in Franklin following years of inaction on the problem in the Auckland area, and is easily controlled by landowners. Environment Waikato says if it can be stopped in this area it will go a long way to stop invasion in the rest of the Region.

Privet is linked to triggering asthma in sufferers at certain times of the year. Its berries are poisonous and can make children and stock ill. It is also acknowledged as a serious ecological pest. Under the new proposed rules, Environment Waikato can enforce its removal in both urban and rural areas if a neighbour makes a health related complaint.

Two possum control schemes are underway in Port Waikato and Awaroa/Whangape and the strategy puts emphasis on community partnerships with rules to ensure compliance.

Koi carp are widespread in the lower Waikato River and surrounding lakes. The Council will be working with the Department of Conservation to prevent their spread to new areas.

The nine or 10 rookeries in the Miranda and Ngatea areas will also get special attention and the aim is to eradicate them by 2007, with community help.

A number of sites in the area have been identified as of key ecological significance. These will receive special pest treatment for both plant and animal pests in a voluntary agreement with landowners. Sites covering 23,000 hectares have been identified throughout the Waikato and Franklin districts and Environment Waikato has already begun pest control partnerships at sites at Port Waikato, Tauhei, Onewhero, Taupiri, Awaroa and Waingaro.

There are also changes proposed in the approach to cleaning up roadside verges. Transit New Zealand is responsible for all state highway verges from “fence to fence” and local roads have a mix of different responsibilities. Written submissions must be in to the Council by Friday, November 23. Hearings will be held in March next year.

Copies of the Strategy are available from Environment Waikato’s offices in Hamilton, Paeroa and Taupo, public libraries and on the Council’s website, www.ew.govt.nz(external link). People can also obtain a copy from Environment Waikato's Freephone 0800 800 401.

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