A blessing to kick-start the restoration of Lake Whangape in Waikato’s north was held today.
The blessing of the project comes after an agreement signed in July between the Department of Conservation (DOC), Waikato Regional Council, Waikato-Tainui, Nga Muka Development Trust and Waahi Whaanui Trust.
The multi-agency project is a commitment to a programme of work to improve the lake’s water quality and the natural habitats that adjoin it.
Iwi, DOC and the regional council were joined by hāpū, whanau and landowners at Shrugs Landing, on Lake Whangape where a 9am blessing by kaumātua took place.
The first step of the project will involve working with landowners to install and repair around 26km of fencing ahead of planting 53,000 native plants around the margins of the lake. Control of the invasive pest plant alligator weed will also be carried out later in the year.
DOC’s Operations Director, David Speirs says, “The five-year initiative includes a $3.5 million investment from DOC, Waikato Regional Council, Waikato-Tainui, the Waikato River Authority and MfE through the Government’s freshwater improvement fund.”
With a catchment area of 35,000ha, Lake Whangape is the second largest lake in the lower Waikato river catchment.
As well as improving Lake Whangape, the project will result in the restoration of 191ha of wetlands and lowland forest through revegetation and weed control of lake habitat.
“The project will draw heavily on mātauranga Māori to develop a kaitiaki monitoring framework to enhance the richness and capacity of local whānau and hapū and their relationship with the lake.
“The exercising of kaitiakitanga and mana whakahaere is key to restoring the health and wellbeing of Lake Whangape and Waikato more generally,” Mr Speirs said.
Habitat and water quality enhancement has been identified as a very high priority for Lake Whangape in the Waikato and Waipā River Restoration Strategy, said regional council chief executive, Vaughan Payne.
“Full restoration of this lake will take time, but the work we’re doing together now will set a good foundation for the long term protection of the diverse flora and fauna it supports,” Mr Payne said.
“In this first year, our council’s work will involve killing as much alligator weed as we can around the lake to prevent it’s spread into the rest of the Lower Waikato River where it can affect pasture production, as well as benchmarking how land is currently being used so we can determine what changes have occurred by the end of the project,” he said.
As part of the project, partners will work with landowners in the catchment to identify locations for and construct eight diffuse pollution attenuation tools (like silt traps, wetlands, erosion control planting).
In recent weeks Waikato-Tainui set aside $1m for marae to assist with developing environmental programmes which among other things may include the implementation of cultural monitoring.
As part of its wider ongoing environmental function Waikato Tainui is also developing a kaitiaki monitoring framework for taonga species. Chuef Executive Officer, Donna Flavell says water quality must remain front and centre for all projects like Lake Whangape.
The collaborative approach to the restoration and revegetation of Lake Whangape catchment also aims to improve community awareness of the values, threats, successes and opportunities at Lake Whangape.