Cool reaction to Waitaki tree proposal

20:00, Jun 14 2012

A major restoration programme for the Waitaki lakes area could require more than $4 million in funding over the next 15 years, but at least one district council is reluctant to help it.

Waitaki Lakes and Rivers Committee chairman Bill Penno explained the proposal to Mackenzie district councillors at its long-term hearings on Tuesday. Mr Penno said the programme would lead to the planting of more than three million trees near the Waitaki lakes over a 15-year period. He has made similar submissions to the Waimate and Waitaki district councils, as well as Environment Canterbury.

Mr Penno urged the Mackenzie district councillors to put their money where their mouth was, and help fund the project.

"The popularity of the areas surrounding the Waitaki lakes, for tourism and recreation, and the public's increased awareness in the importance of the environment means there has to be a region-wide approach to this," he said. There needed to be funding towards equipment, planning expertise, fencing and plantations, as well as wilding clearing operations.

The business plan estimated the project would cost up to $4 million over 15 years, with work near the Mackenzie district accounting for about $1m of it. Mackenzie deputy mayor Graham Smith said the council had "a bit of an issue" with the proposal.

"Where does this start and where does this end? The Mackenzie district seems to be a pretty small player in this, I don't know how much money we could spend," he said.


Mr Penno said the area designated for planting and restoration included near the Haldon Reserve and Lake Ruataniwha, two very popular and important areas for conservation and tourism. "I would say the council has a strong responsibility to do something about this," he said.

He reiterated he was more concerned about councils working together, rather than the actual funding they set aside – although that would also help.

Cr Graeme Page asked Mr Penno whether the committee had approached the hydro lakes operators, Meridian and Genesis. Mr Penno said although it had received some support, the committee got very little actual funding.

"Our role is mainly one of co-ordination. We have been working with a number of groups on this. The other councils have indicated they would support it, so don't just put this aside," Mr Penno said.

The council reserved its decision, pending further debate.

The Timaru Herald