Project gives life to dying waterway

By Patrick O' Sullivan

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Former insurance agent John Scott has enjoyed fishing the Maraetotara Stream, one of Hawke's Bay's best trout streams, since the early 1970s. But 10 years ago it was no longer fun.

"I noticed it was being largely affected by trees dying and dropping into the river creating log jams. Also stock had access - it was dying.

"I mentioned it to people such as Fish and Game and Hastings Anglers and nothing was very forthcoming - no one put their hand up.

"I thought 'put you own bloody hand up - don't expect someone else to do it'."

But the issue was wider than about his trout catch.

"There are a lot of native birds that live in that particular valley and over the generations a lot of the bush had been cut down by farmers. They didn't know any better - that was just the way you did it.

"Of course the corridor to move from one remnant of native bush to another had disappeared.

"I thought if it was done properly and both sides of the river were fenced off and planted with natives, it would link the Mohi Bush all the way out to Cape Kidnappers."

He fundraised and set up a nursery and a trust for the 35km stream.

Getting the Hawke's Bay Regional Council on board "was the key thing". The river was identified as a priority, enabling a 90 per cent subsidy for fencing and tree planting but farmers would have to pay for the removal of willows - a deal breaker "because the farmers didn't want to spend the money".

He struck a canny deal with the council after costing the project.

"I said to them, 'we'll swap roles - you've got the machinery and the team, so you take the willows out, and we'll grow the trees and plant them'. The cost worked out 50/50 and they were happy to do it."

But the early success of the project caught the fledgling trust unprepared. Help was at hand thanks to fellow conservationist Andy Lowe, who was planning what is now Cape Sanctuary on Cape Kidnappers He donated $15,000 "at a crucial time".

With the trust continuing to succeed with the vision of a bush-clad stream from headwaters to ocean, Mr Scott stood down as trust chairman to protect other Hawke's Bay waterways.

He refuses to take credit for his achievements, saying his main role has been persuading others to act.

"I used to play a lot of sport and I'm a team player. The Hawke's Bay Environmental Water Group and Friends of the Tukituki - I spend lot of time working with people behind the scenes getting them to work for the common good.

"I like people and I love the environment."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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