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Half-million-dollar bid for Waingake bush upkeep to protect district's catchment

A commitment of $550,000 over 10 years to restore the Waingake bush catchment, which protects the city water supply, has been recommended to Gisborne District Council by the environmental planning and regulation committee.

The recommendation, based on a suggestion by councillor Amber Dunn, would see $100,000 for a “knockdown” of invasive pests in the first year, followed by $50,000 a year for the ensuing nine years of the long-term plan.

One source of the funds could be revenue from water sold to commercial users.

The committee was discussing a report from environmental services and protection manager Lois Easton.

Council had budgeted a “big fat zero” to protect its drinking water catchmentAmber Dunn said the council had budgeted a “big fat zero” to protect its drinking water catchment.

The bush was an 1100-hectare filtration plant for the city’s water supply.

“That is how we should view it. It makes complete sense to value this resource and makes good sense to care for it.”

Caring for it lowered the wear and tear on the city’s treatment plant.

“Protecting our water supply catchment should be one of the highest priorities of this council.

“This report tells us that it isn’t and that is probably what upsets me the most.”

She suggested the council keep a portion of revenue from commercial water users and target it at water supply protection.

Five percent of that revenue would raise $140,000 a year.

“We can’t sit here at this table and say we have a full-potential policy of wai Tairawhiti, then budget zero dollars for the protection of our water supply catchment.

“Let’s remember Cyclone Bola. Let’s reflect on the Hastings City Council. It must always be one of our highest priorities that the council funds.”

Biodiversity that protected the city’s drinking water and the bush was actually part of the infrastructure of the district.

This should not be a cost on the environment section of the council. It should be an infrastructure and assets one, she said.

Protecting the water supply was probably Amber Dunn's greatest priority and duty as a district councillorThis was probably her greatest priority and duty as a district councilllor.

Rehette Stoltz said they were talking about a $550,000 budget over the 10-year plan and she absolutely supported that.

She did not want a recommendation from the committee chucked out because there was no money. She liked the fact the recommendation had numbers and thinking behind it.

These had not been plucked out of the air. She would be keen to take them as a reference point.

GDC environmental services and protection director Nick Zaman said staff had discussed this and held workshops.

They were under the hammer but there would be a recommendation made to the council.

The recommendation came after the committee received a presentation from Ms Easton, who said the bush area had been seriously degraded.

A pest management plan was prepared after monitoring in December 2017 showed possums, rats, goats and stoats were the priority pests. Basically the bush was at capacity for possums.

Cameras in the bush over a 14-day period recorded 1398 possums, 480 rats, two stoats and 11 feral catsMs Easton said 66 cameras were deployed through the bush over a 14-day period and recorded 1398 possums, 480 rats, two stoats and 11 feral cats.

Staff had worked on a good long-term plan, rather than just slapping on a band-aid.

The cheapest thing to do would be to apply 1080, which was incredibly effective but attracted some community concern.

The management plan would be discussed with stakeholders before it was implemented.

Malcolm Maclean said he had seen a television programme that showed large animals died a long painful death from 1080.

Referring to a picture of a giant feral cat taken by the cameras, committee chairwoman Pat Seymour said if people dropped their cats off instead of taking them to the SPCA to dispose of them appropriately, that was what happened to them.

At Whangara, they got into the native bush and on to the road. They grew enormously. While they did eat the rats and mice, they also ate baby birds.

The biggest nuisance was that they spread disease.

“They are really nasty things,” she said. “They don’t come from nowhere.

The responsibility is on all pet cat owners to look after your animals and dispose of them, rather than taking the easy option and dropping them off on the side of the road.”

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Waingake from the air: An aerial view of one of the Mangapoike Dams in the 1100ha Waingake Waterworks Bush. Herald file picture