Fencing for stock exclusion and riparian planting has started at Whakakī Lake, north of Wairoa, one of six areas identified as an environmental hotspot in the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's annual plan last year.

The council allocated $1 million for freshwater improvement work across the six areas, with work at Whakakī Lake focused on reducing the amount of sediment coming into the shallow, coastal water body from the surrounding hill country.

With a maximum depth of one metre, this had led to a decline in water quality over past decades and in March this year, cyanobacteria growth was said to be 50 times higher than the limit considered safe for contact recreation.

The potential for the toxins from this algae to accumulate in fish tissue, including that of a thriving tuna population, was also being explored.

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Alongside local farmers, including Hereheretau Station farm manager Dick Finney, efforts to reduce this sediment loss and keep stock out are now under way, including a 1km stock exclusion fence being built along the Rahui Channel, which connects the lake to the sea.

In addition, the council is working with the community to plant more than 400 native trees next to the bridge over that channel.

On the other side of Whakakī Lake a plan with the Iwitea community is under way to build a 3.7km fence around Lake Paraoa for stock exclusion.

Council group manager Iain Maxwell said it was an exciting time as all the groups came together to restore the lake, considered a taonga to the many hapu of Whakakī Marae, Iwitea Marae and all those who lived within the Whakakī catchment.

These groups include the Whakakī Lake Trust, whose chairman, Richard Brooking, said it was grateful for the hotspot funding, which had helped kick-start the fencing and riparian planting work.

Last year, the Ministry for the Environment announced this project was being considered for funding grants through the Freshwater Improvement Fund, but the request for this funding had been put on hold for a year awaiting a final application.

A regional council spokesperson said this would allow the council to work with the local community to review and finalise the proposed work programme.

"The project is required to obtain any resource consents required for work, prior to submitting the final application."

The total project to revitalise the lake had been costed at $2.8 million over five years.

An earlier funding request of $1.3m had been made to the Freshwater Improvement Fund to support the regional council's contribution.