Local environmental projects boosted with $105,000 of new funding

Funding of $105,000 will support the restoration of South Canterbury's coastal wetlands and habitat protection for the long-tailed bat population during 2020.

Eight projects funded by Environment Canterbury’s Immediate Steps Programme were approved by the Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora (OTOP) Water Zone Committee in June 2019 for the year ahead.  Each project will receive between $1,800 and $27,800 of funding from Immediate Steps. Landowners or project partners will contribute a further 50% of the funding – boosting the overall worth of the projects to $200,000.

Zone committee chair, Hamish McFarlane, said: “It’s always an exciting time for our committee when we are able to give the go-ahead on the next suite of biodiversity projects – and these ones are set to make a real difference to our local natural environment.

The mix of weed control projects, the protection of bat habitat and restoration of some important wetlands, align with the recommendations to improve biodiversity that we made in our Zone Implementation Programme Addendum.

“What gives these projects legs is that they are all partnership projects – so our funding from Immediate Steps is just a part of the overall investment.”

Environment Canterbury Southern Zone Lead for OTOP, Brian Reeves, said the new projects also complement work carried out in previous Immediate Steps projects.

“The new projects continue with some of core key outcomes – protecting our coastal wetlands, looking for smart opportunities to get ahead of weeds and pests, and connecting with the local community and landowners to raise awareness of what can be achieved with a bit of collaboration. Each project offers the potential for education and sharing of ideas and good practice to others.”

The six new and two ongoing projects to be funded (total of $104,633) for 2019/2020 are:

  • North Opuha weed control, $7,500
  • Waihi River biodiversity corridor, $12,200
  • Prattley Road wetland protection, $27,800
  • Rockburn bat habitat fencing, $1,800
  • Black Birch QEII - stage three, $21,000
  • Waihi Peak Spanish Heath, $15,000
  • Upper Rangitata Predator Control (fourth year of funding) $13,333
  • Ellis Road Wetland (second year of funding) $6,000

The water zone committee is made up of community members, rūnanga representative and councillors from Timaru, Mackenzie and Waimate District Councils, as well as Environment Canterbury.

The committee's role is to work with the community to develop actions and tactics to deliver on the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

Immediate Steps Programme funding 2019-20

1. Waihi Peak Spanish Heath control - $15,000

A woody invasive weed, called Spanish heath, will be targeted at the head of the Waihi River to safeguard a threatened lizard species and rare native plants.

The project, which is in partnership with the landowner, aims to reduce the density of Spanish heath, to prevent spread downstream and into the surrounding area.

2. Waihi River Biodiversity Corridor - $12,200

The community-led Waihi River Regeneration Project has been allocated funding to enhance the biodiversity values along the Waihi River, from the river gorge to Woodbury.

This project has three goals: habitat restoration through weed control and stock exclusion, predator control and building community support for the restoration of biodiversity to create a native corridor along the river. The community group will be contributing time to the project, including weekly working bees, contractor management and landowner and community liaison.

3. North Opuha weed control - $7,500

Threatened New Zealand species, including the New Zealand falcon and a nationally critical buttercup, will be given better odds of survival thanks to a new weed control project on a high-country station near the North Opuha River.

Funding has been approved to target areas of weeds at Lilydale Station, particularly along the North Opuha River and in riparian shrublands. The weeds include grey and crack willow, rowan, alder, silver birch and elderberry.

The project will allow contractors to be employed to target the localised weeds. In addition, the landowner will control an area of Douglas fir over the next three years.

4. Rockburn bat habitat fencing - $1,800

The installation of automatic bat detectors and the foresight of a local farmer has led to the protection of a stand of mature willow trees to provide habitat for threatened long-tailed bats near Waitohi Bush.

The landowner was originally planning to chop down a stand of willow trees to make a fencing project easier but first contacted Environment Canterbury to see if they were used as roosting trees by bats.

Environment Canterbury and the Department of Conservation placed six automatic bat detectors along the line of trees for six weeks around April 2019. Analysis of the data collected showed very consistent and high levels of bat activity over the duration of the monitoring.

The funding will go towards costs for fencing the mature willows while also excluding stock from the nearby waterway. The landowner’s contribution will be erecting the fence.

5. Prattley Road Wetland Protection - $27,800

The ecological values of a wetland that’s part of South Canterbury’s interlinked coastal system will be protected in a new restoration project north of the Opihi River Mouth.

The large wetland, dominated by native vegetation, provides important habitat for a range of threatened bird and fish species including black shag, bittern and īnanga (whitebait).

The wetland is part of the chain or corridor of coastal wetlands. The funding will go towards over 2000 m of fencing, to fully exclude stock from the wetland system.

The landowners will contribute the rest of the cost of fencing, as well as the removal of unwanted willows and weeds such as yellow flag iris.

Prattley Road Wetland

6. Black Birch Stream QEII covenant protection stage 3 - $21,000

The final stage of project to place QEII protection covenants on regenerating native forest at Black Birch Stream has been funded.

The addition of a 56 ha block, on the southern slopes, will bring the total area being protected for perpetuity to a total of 148 ha. The forest is made up of mixed hardwood – podocarp, with dominant canopy species including tōtara, matai, kahikatea and kowhai.

This area has been classified as a Significant Natural Area (SNA) under the Timaru District Plan.

The $21, 000 of funding will cover the cost of fencing, which will be extremely challenging due to the nature of the site, and weed control. Additional funding will come from the Timaru District Council SNA fund, the landowner and the QEII Trust, for additional fencing, weed control and survey costs.

7. Upper Rangitata Predator Control - $13,333 – ongoing funding

The Zone Committee will continue to support this DOC-lead joint initiative targeting feral cats, possums and other predators over a 12,000-ha area.

The Upper Rangitata Predator Control Project aims to help protect the habitat of rare species, including wrybill and the black-fronted tern.

8. Ellis Road Wetland $6,000 – ongoing funding

A small coastal saltmarsh wetland is continuing to receive help from the OTOP Water Zone Committee and its landowner Timaru District Council. The Ellis Road wetland is a mix of saltmarsh, wetland, and dryland and it is home to the at-risk succulent plant Thyridia repens.

It is also a popular recreational spot. Funding from Immediate Steps will help control weeds and undertake native planting to improve the health of the wetland.