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Published: 2017-12-20 16:45:00

Native plants, birds and fish at Matahuru Wetland, Lake Waikare, will be the biggest winners of an $84,000 grant from Waikato Regional Council’s Natural Heritage Fund.

The council’s finance committee has agreed to help Waikato Raupatu River Trust/Nikau Whanau Trust buy 13ha of land in Waerenga for ecological restoration.

About 20.7 hectares of the wetland is already owned and administered by Waikato-Tainui and Matahuru Papakainga Marae, and they have been doing ecological restoration on their land since 2015.

The Matahuru Wetland provides habitat for a number of threatened species, including Australasian bittern, grey duck, New Zealand dabchick, white heron, North Island fernbird and several shag species. However,  Lake Waikare and surrounding wetlands are generally degraded, leading to loss of habitat and ecological function.

An ecological restoration plan for the entire wetland includes removal of pest plants and animals, planting, fencing and ecological monitoring. The aim of the collaborative project is to:

  • return the wetland to its natural state
  • use the natural processes of the wetland to filter sediments and nutrients from the Matahuru Stream into Lake Waikare
  • assert kaitiakitanga and relearn mātauranga Māori in the process
  • establish and monitor a set of ecological and cultural health performance targets.

The land – a large wetland block and a smaller pasture block that is currently part of a farm – is valued at $120,000.

Finance committee chairwoman Jane Hennebry said the council is committed to improving the health of Lake Waikare.

“We already work with landowners, iwi, community groups and other agencies to improve the biodiversity and water quality of the lake and surrounding wetlands which are home to some rare and threatened species.

“This is not something anyone can do alone, and we are pleased with the commitment that Waikato-Tainui and Matahuru Papakainga Marae have towards the wetland,” Cr Hennebry said.

The grant was one of three Natural Heritage Fund applications approved by the finance committee at its December meeting. Tongariro Natural History Society was given $126,750 over three years for riparian restoration of 25 hectares along the Waiotaka River and Mahakirau Forest Estate Inc was given $154,990 over four years for predator control work on 600ha of private QEII covenanted land. 

The Natural Heritage Fund has been in place since 2005 and is derived from the natural heritage targeted rate of $5.80 per property. The total amount allocated per year to the fund varies but is usually around $730,000.