During 2018 Council provided technical support to a funding application by Whakaoratia te mana o Te Waiapu Trust, representing Te Wiwi Nati Trust and Te Riu o Waiapu Trust. The project was initiated by Hilton Collier and brings hapu from throughout the Waiapu Valley together.
The application looked at a range of environmental issues resulting in loss of valuable farmland- predominantly the alluvial flats alongside the Waiapu River. The flats are limited in area, highly productive and are being lost to riverbank erosion with each heavy rainfall event. This problem is worsened by the inundation of sediment within the riverbed.
The project is funded through the One Billion Trees Programme, which Minister Shane Jones approved in July 2019.
Earlier work in the headwaters of the Waiapu River included exotic forestry, indigenous reversion and poplar/willow pole planting. Poles have been strategically placed alongside the banks of the Waiapu River. This work was funded by a community grant from an Erosion Control Funding Programme, while volunteers planted areas where Council had funded the plant material. This planting is a precursor to establishing indigenous species amongst poles, which will help to act as a nurse crop for the seedlings, and provide erosion control, while slower growing indigenous species become established.
Initial work in this latest phase started with debris dams being built in strategic gullies and minor waterways. Debris dams provide stability, reduce sediment loads entering larger waterways and ultimately the main river. To date, more than 300 debris dams have been constructed since November 2019. Four timber flumes and 20 short sections of riverworks have been installed to provide further protection. There has been sufficient rainfall to fill debris dams, partly or completely in places, during the last two winters.
Willow nurseries are being established locally to provide pole material for use in debris dams, and for planting alongside the main river, tributaries and elsewhere on eroding land. A move to propagating indigenous species is a longer term aim.
The project assists in building capability and capacity for local people to maintain the project momentum. Local interest and support have been huge.
Further initiatives like riparian fencing and planting, preservation of regenerating vegetation and pest control are in the pipeline.