One of the region's largest private conservation projects is about to get a major boost as it reaches its halfway mark after 14 years.
The Maraetotara Tree Trust aims to restore the Maraetotara River to its former glory through an extensive riparian protection and planting programme along its 43km corridor, in partnership with the Hawke's Bay Regional Authority and landowners.
Returning the entire corridor to indigenous vegetation will improve water quality and trout numbers, and create a sanctuary for native birds.
The trust's chairman, Pat Turley, said: "The vision of the Maraetotara Tree Trust 2002 founding trustees included a restored Maraetotara River and a bird corridor as a connector for Te Mata Park, Havelock North, Haumoana and Napier.
"The project might have seemed overly ambitious; some might have said nuts."
Once riverbanks were cleared of willows and fenced by Hawke's Bay Regional Council, the trust typically planted about 4500 native trees annually.
"In 2015, the trust oversaw and funded planting of 9500 native trees. This partnering by Hawke's Bay Regional Council and landowners with Maraetotara Tree Trust and underpinned by funding success, means Maraetotara Tree Trust will oversee planting of no fewer than 13,000 native trees annually in 2016 and 2017 - about three times the prior rate."
Lighting design company David Trubridge is a leading sponsor and the trust was granted $150,000 from the Department of Conservation for 2015 to 2017.
The regional council is a project partner and also the lead agency for the Cape to City predator-control biodiversity project, which will see more than 30,000 native plants established across a catchment area that has the Maraetotara River at its heart - between Hastings, Cape Kidnappers, Waimarama and Kahuranaki.
He said thanks to Hastings District Council's recent limestone works there was improved public parking and pedestrian access to the river at the Waimarama Rd bridge, where there was a swimming hole.
Hastings Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers was the inaugural Trust secretary.