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New Strategy Focuses On Nurturing Nature

Hamilton could be teeming with native birds, animals and insects and flourishing with native trees and plants, with cool, clear gully streams swimming with native fish.

The city could also be full of people who care for and are nourished by nature.

That’s the vision of the new Nature in the City Strategy approved yesterday (1 December) by Hamilton City Council’s Environment Committee.

The Strategy will help Council make decisions about where the city’s future investment in nature should be. It sets a goal of 10% native vegetation cover across the city by 2050 – the current level is 2%.

If the goal is met, Hamilton will have thriving ecosystems, with gullies, wetlands and the Waikato River connected, healthy and able to support the animals and plants within them.

Since the 1840s, the Waikato region has lost significant native vegetation, which has impacted on the species that can call Kirikiriroa/Hamilton home. The Strategy highlights the recent return of tuuii to Hamilton in major numbers as an example of what can happen with ecological restoration and pest control.

Environment Committee Chair Margaret Forsyth acknowledged the importance of the Committee’s decision to approve the Strategy and quoted a whakataukii (Maaori proverb): “Toituu te whenua whatungarongaro te tangata. The land remains when people have disappeared.”

Deputy Chair Sarah Thomson said investing in nature within the city was one of the best intergenerational investments Council could make – quite possibly the best.

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“When we are gone, the tootara, the rimu, the kauri, all of these beautiful, majestic trees will still be there,” she said. “When the roads have been replaced and the bridges replaced and when buildings have gone and been built back up again, they’ll still be there.”

Cr Thomson said the benefits to a city when nature was thriving were diverse. Nature provided a range of ecosystem services such as the cooling effects of tree cover and the provision of clean water.

Nature also provided many social benefits, including spaces for people to find peace and calm in a busy urban environment and connect with others through ecological restoration.

The Nature in the City Strategy was developed using a broad range of community feedback. When people were asked what they wanted for nature in Hamilton, they said nature should be more visible – from more native birds to fully restored gullies with plenty of native trees and shaded areas in the central city and suburbs.

“We should be able to touch, smell, eat and hear our nature, not just see it,” one person suggested.

Other people emphasised the impact of nature on wellbeing, with comments such as “When we look after nature we look after ourselves” and “By healing the whenua we heal ourselves”.

The Strategy acknowledges and aims to build on the significant work already being done by mana whenua, landowners, community groups, businesses and schools to grow more nature in Hamilton.

Maeroa Intermediate School students were among a number of people who spoke during the public forum in support of the Strategy. They talked about working together as a group and with their community to restore the school’s gully.

Other speakers stressed the opportunities to get rangatahi (youth) and the broader community more involved in restoration work and for Council to partner with community groups to implement the Strategy.

The Environment Committee also approved a strategic implementation plan for 2021 to 2024. Funding for the plan and other Council activities will be decided through the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan process. Council will publicly consult on the Long-Term Plan in March 2021.

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