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Published: 2012-03-27 00:00:00

A joint council and community project has begun to restore an ecologically important Tairua River wetland at Hikuai on the Coromandel Peninsula.

The project – which involves a significant cabbage tree forest threatened by weeds – involves members of the local community, Ngati Hei Trust, the Tairua-Pauanui Community Board, Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) and Waikato Regional Council.

“Without our collective intervention this highly visible wetland could cease to exist as a natural feature and instead be replaced by weeds,” said Waikato Regional Council land management officer Matt Highway.

"We’ve already mulched about three hectares of existing weeds at the site. The plan is now to control any re-emerging weeds in the mulched area, and to plant grass and native plants to help re-instate this as a weed-free natural site.

“This is a reserve area and public access is important, however while the restoration work is being carried out, gates have been installed temporarily to help prevent illegal dumping and vehicles entering the reserve.”

This new restoration activity follows earlier work by Ngati Hei Trust to help restore the ecology of the area.

In 2006, the trust, backed by TCDC, commissioned a restoration plan for the narrow strip of alluvial terrace wetland on the true left bank of the Tairua River. A particular focus was the unique area of wetland riparian vegetation on the lower Tairua River, between Hikuai Stream and Woody Stream.

Ngati Hei Trust then completed mapping of the river margin vegetation and invertebrate monitoring between 2007 and 2009. This provided a baseline for planning and monitoring of ecosystem recovery.

The regional council’s Thames-Coromandel elected representative Simon Friar said: “Wetlands play an important role in helping to reduce the impact of flooding, sedimentation and contamination of waterways. They are also home to many threatened plants and animals. So it is important that we continue to protect them.”

Any members of the community with knowledge of the Tairua River wetland site or wanting to discuss the restoration project further should contact Matt Highway or Hirini Rolleston on freephone 0800 800 401.