The planting of 600 native plants along the Waiteti riverbank has been described as the first step in a long-term plan to help preserve local waterways and Lake Rotorua.

Earlier this year the Ngati Ngararanui Hapu Trust voiced concern about the western shores of Lake Rotorua, saying the area had become infested, suffocated and was "dying".

On Tuesday students from Kaharoa School, Kaitao Intermediate, Ngongotaha Primary School and Western Heights High School began planting the plants along the Waiteti Stream riverbank behind the Waiteti Marae in Ngongotaha.

This is expected to firm up the soil of the riverbank and prevent further erosion.

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Ngati Ngararanui Hapu trustee Guy Ngatai said he had waited a long time for action to be taken and was pleased the process had begun.

"I'm so happy for this day to come and to be able to allow local kids to come down and learn about planting these trees and what it means for the riverbank," Mr Ngatai said.

"This is only a small step but it's the first in a long-term plan to try to prevent erosion on the bank."

The project has been supported by the local Lions Club, the Rotorua Lakes Council and Te Arawa Lakes Trust, as well as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council which supplied the funding for the new plants.

Fabian Walker, 13, (left) and Teaniana Hape, 18, help with the tree planting behind Waiteti Marae. Photo/Ben Fraser
Fabian Walker, 13, (left) and Teaniana Hape, 18, help with the tree planting behind Waiteti Marae. Photo/Ben Fraser

Scott Kusabs, a land management officer from the regional council, said its current focus was to stabilise the soil of the riverbank.

"Our aim is to prevent sedimentation of the river and advise what are the best plants to help stabilise the bank.

"The flax that was around the bank is not ideal close to the river, so it's been dug up and will be replaced with carex grass which thrives in that environment," Mr Kusabs said.

Once the planting has been done around the riverbank, Mr Ngatai said attention would move towards the lakefront and connecting waterways.

"Whatever we can do to alleviate the nutrients and phosphates running into waterways and towards the lake will be good for the long-term future."

Mr Ngatai emphasised the plan did not stop here.

"We need a huge community initiative to keep the momentum going because we have other rivers in the area that need attention also."

Western Heights High School student Teaniana Hape, 18, took part with her Year 13 social studies class and welcomed the opportunity to help out and prevent pollution of the river.

"I used to come down here as a kid and swim so it would be nice for the water quality to improve so people can come back down here."