Big push to reopen Foxton River Loop

Signatures are rushing in to support a petition to reopen the Foxton River Loop section of the Manawatu River.

The Save our River Trust, a community group focused on the river loop, have collected more than 1000 signatures around Foxton on their petition.

Adding impetus to their moves was a decision by the Foxton Community Board last night to establish a three-member working party to partner with SORT on the issue.

SORT member Michael Feyen said after last night's community board meeting that time was running out to repair the river loop.

The petition, placed in stores around Foxton, had received a good response in the town, Feyen said.

"Everyone seems to be interested in one way or another."

The petition would be used both to lobby local authorities and in applications for grants for conservation work on the loop.

Feyen said SORT needed the community board to lead the calls for action on the loop to grant weight to both the trust's lobbying and its grant applications.

"It's time for the community board to up their game," he said.

Reopening the loop would create the potential for a wetlands area that potentially would draw tourists to Foxton, he said. "There is potential for a significant wetlands area," he said.

"We'll get the fernbirds back, we'll get the bittern back."

The loop has been a passage to nowhere since 1943 when the Ministry of Works diverted the Manawatu River in a botched attempt at building a flood spillway known as the Whirokino Cut.

The work was meant to control floods in the Manawatu River and to stop Foxton from flooding, but the cut suddenly became the dominant route of the river, with the old path practically cut off and the flow in the loop generated by tides from the sea.

The possibility of opening the entrance to the Foxton Loop and returning some permanent flow has been raised on many occasions but Horizons Regional Council says the cost of repair and maintenance work could be tens of millions of dollars.

The regional council's river engineers say the river will always have issues of silt building up.

Feyen said SORT's priority was finding a way forward.

"We know all of the rights and wrongs of the past, what we need to do is create a new future."

Manawatu Standard