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Ceremonial Tree Planting Launches $16m Restoration Package For Lower Waikato Catchment

The launch of a $16 million restoration works programme yesterday at Taniwha Marae was “collaboration at its finest”.

Representatives from the Government (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry for the Environment, Ministry for Primary Industries, Te Uru Rākau, the Department of Conservation), Waikato-Tainui, Waikato River Authority, Waikato Regional Council, Waikato District Council, mana whenua, contractors and landowners all got together for a blessing of four environmental restoration and climate resilience projects for the lower Waikato catchment.

These projects have been made possible thanks to funding from the Government’s COVID-19 recovery package, with extra funding also provided by Waikato River Authority, Waikato Regional Council and others. The intent of these projects is to significantly benefit our environment, increase resilience to climate change, help restore the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, and provide jobs for iwi and local communities.

Waikato Regional Council CE Chris McLay said the lower Waikato catchment includes a giant floodplain, and its flood protection infrastructure created community resilience and economic stability.

“The funding we have received as part of Central Government’s COVID recovery response will help us replace ageing flood protection infrastructure, building with the environment and taonga species in mind, and undertake considerable environmental enhancements to reduce erosion, protect and restore freshwater quality and create habitat for biodiversity and mahinga kai species,” Mr McLay said.

“It has enabled us to accelerate these partnership projects, which may otherwise not have got off the ground, and create jobs to stimulate the economy.

“Altogether, about 80 FTE jobs will be created, more than 360,000 plants will go into the ground, nearly 300ha of land will be retired and about 180km of fencing will be built, with the support of landowners.”

MP Jamie Strange, who represented the Government, said when COVID-19 hit there was no understanding of “what this would mean for us … and here we are today”.

New Zealand had a low level of debt which meant the Government was able to extend and borrow, not just for wage subsidies but to create jobs, Mr Strange said.

He said the Government saw an opportunity to put that spend into the kind of country it wanted, and that was a country resilient to climate change. “We only have one planet.”

Waikato River Authority co-chair Tipa Mahuta said the programme was collaboration at its finest.

“When we get it right it feels like this, and this has to be the new normal.

“This has to be community led and driven for the change to be sustainable.”

Waikato Regional Council’s COVID-19 recovery funding:

  • Overall, Waikato Regional Council secured about $28m from the Government.
  • Regionally this funding will support approximately 300 jobs of varying durations.
  • Around $11m of the Government funding supports the four partnership projects launched in the lower Waikato.
    • Over $10m from MBIE for climate resilience projects
    • Nearly $1 million from MfE as part of the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme.
  • Other funding comes from:
  • Waikato River Authority - $1.2m
  • Waikato Regional Council - $5m
  • MPI Hill Country Erosion Fund, Te Uru Rakau 1BT, DOC and others – more than $500,000.
  • In total, more than $16m million will be spent on four projects for the lower Waikato catchment.
  • For other projects we have received funding for, go to waikatoregion.govt.nz/shovel-ready.

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