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Heretaunga Plains River Management Under Review

The multiple uses of the Heretaunga Plains river corridors, and the services these rivers provide, are coming under scrutiny in a review by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s asset management team.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors were updated this week on the wide review of the standards to which the rivers are managed.

Loans that HBRC took out to respond to the devastation by willow sawfly along the river edges 10 years ago will be fully repaid in two years, and there has been public interest in increasing the level of flood protection.

“Staff are assessing the work and investment needed to protect properties and productive land on the plains from much larger floods, instead of the current level of protection,” says Mike Adye, Group Manager Asset Management.

“As part of this review, we also have an opportunity to look at how we manage the land in the flood ways, the areas between the usual river edges and the stopbanks.”

In normal conditions, this land is accessible to the public, and as much of it is in grass, it is grazed to manage the vegetation and minimise the fire risk during summer.  Electric fences along the edge of the river contain cattle on the berm land.  Currently these grazing leases add about $50,000 a year to the Heretaunga Plains Flood Control and Drainage Scheme budget, funding that would have to be found elsewhere if leasing was stopped.

An inventory of the variety of current land use along the rivers will be developed by HBRC asset management staff by the end of January 2017.  This will include recreational uses, environmental areas such as wetland and streams, grazing and other commercial activity such as gravel extraction, beehives and cropping.

Key aspects of the project will be looking for opportunities to improve the biodiversity in and around the rivers, and managing public access and use which can be problematic due to inappropriate vehicle use and rubbish dumping.

Staff will investigate best practice options throughout the country, and discuss needs and solutions with the public, sports groups and Māori organisations before preparing a proposal for public consultation in July 2017. 

Potential changes to river berm management will be considered by Council and the public through the 2018-28 Long Term Plan process.

15 December 2016

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