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Million-dollar boost for Coast projects

$308k for Waimata Catchment Group, $700k to Eastern Whio Link

TWO East Coast projects have received a total of $1 million in government funding to boost conservation and potentially save the endangered brown kiwi.

An Eastern Whio Link marae-led project to increase the populations of kiwi and whio on the East Coast will receive $700,000.

The Waimata Catchment Group will get $308,000 to aid in the restoration of its catchment.

The funding comes from the Mahi mo te Taiao/Jobs for Nature Community and Private Land Biodiversity funds administered by the Department of Conservation.

An estimated 14 full-time jobs will be created through the funding.

The Eastern Whio Link project aims to increase whio and kiwi to carrying capacity on the East Coast by expanding the predator control work and enhancing the connection of mana whenua to the landscape.

The funding will enable an expansion to 55km of whio habitat under protection.

Local businesses and Eastern Institution of Technology Gisborne and Tairawhiti Enviro School are involved and the aim is to increase wider community involvement.

Project lead Sam Gibson said the funding was a “massive” boost.

“It's going to fast-track our whio recovery so we will be able to essentially cover every field area in the catchment.”

Through the project's fieldwork, volunteers found a remnant population of North Island brown kiwi.

“This will allow us to put a tracking network around the kiwi and protect them as well,” Mr Gibson said. “It will also allow us to employ a trapping team of locals, which is something the catchment has never had before.

“It's pretty massive . . . essentially it secures both kiwi and whio presence in the catchment.”

Kiwi were “hanging on by a thread” in the area, Mr Gibson said.

“When they get to really low numbers, it's kind of 50-50 whether you can bring them back.

On a recent survey, across many of our farms we found they were hanging on in ones and twos on each farm, which is pretty scary.”

The Waimata Catchment Group funding will enable predator and pest control to be undertaken across 3000 hectares of farmland in the upper Waimata catchment as part of a wider restoration programme.

The Waimata Catchment Group has been doing a range of activities over the last 12 months including tree planting, fencing and weed control around the Waimata River and its tributaries.

“It's been great to see the enthusiasm from landowners to participate in the restoration efforts,” group chairman Matt Maclaurin said.

“Our aspiration has been to expand our activities to support biodiversity and predator management.

“This funding recognises the efforts landowners and the community have been making to restore the health of the catchment.”

Project manager and landowner Laura Watson said the funding supported the catchment group's holistic restoration vision.

“To date the project has been largely focused on improving water quality and the health of the Waimata River, but with this new funding we will be able to undertake predator and pest control and support the wider ecological health of the catchment.

“As well as helping the existing native bird life in the catchment, we hope to be able to reintroduce pateke (brown teal duck), kakariki and ngutukaka back into the catchment.

More about the catchment project is on its Facebook page.

The Jobs for Nature Community Biodiversity Fund has made $18 million available for established organisations who support groups of private landowners to work together to protect and restore rare habitats that safeguard populations of native species on private land.

“The work we are funding includes everything from pest control and restoration planting to plant propagation, skill building and education initiatives across Aotearoa New Zealand,” Conservation Minister Kiri Ms Allan said.

Forty-nine projects were selected nationwide from more than 400 applications.

“The successful projects will take us where we want to go fastest and most importantly, by putting people into jobs for nature,” Ms Allan said.

DOING HIS BIT: George Watson, 4, helping with native planting at Monowai station in the Waimata catchment. The Waimata Catchment Group has received $308,000 in Jobs for Nature funding to continue its restoration efforts. Picture supplied