A three-year programme to clean up river catchments in urban Whangārei is already paying dividends.
According to the Northland Regional Council, the programme has exceeded expectations in its first year and has had a big uptake among landowners.
The Whangārei Urban Awa project, a collaboration between NRC and the Ministry for the Environment, targets water quality in the Kirikiri, Lower Hātea, Raumanga and Waiarohia catchments.
To improve the urban water quality, contractors are installing fencing to exclude stock from the waterways.
Extra planting aims to lower the water temperature, increase the nutrient levels in the soil and reduce potentially harmful bacteria, while also cutting sediment from erosion caused by stock damage to steam banks.
So far, 7.4km of fencing across 10 properties has been installed, well in excess of the 4km first year target.
"Similarly, there has already been 1300sq m of riparian planting completed, again well in excess of Year One's 500sq m target," regional councillor Jack Craw, who represents the council's Whangārei Urban constituency, said.
Craw explained the project had good engagement from the community.
The project was a win-win for landowners and nature, as it improved the land value while protecting the environment.
According to Craw, Urban Awa was doing the groundwork for what central government would do in the future, and was "great value" for landowners.
Eligible landowners qualify for an 80 per cent subsidy for the work required, provided they pay the remaining 20 per cent upfront.
More than $500,000 comes from the Government's Jobs for Nature package, so all the fencing and planting must be done by contractors.
NRC is now seeking interest from new landowners and will write to about 200 households in all four catchments over the next month.
Andy McCall, who is leading Urban Awa, said property eligibility was determined according to existing land management practises, size and the length of riparian margin on the property.
He said one reason for the better-than-expected uptake of the programme to date may be impending central government stock exclusion rules.
Under the new rules, pigs must be fenced out of all permanent or intermittently flowing waterways wider than one metre on low slope land from July 1, 2023.
Similar fencing rules for cattle and deer will take effect from July 1, 2025. The fencing must create at least a 3m buffer strip between the top of the bank edge to the fence.
Craw said stock and erosion from land development aren't the only polluters.
The Hātea is ranked among the most littered rivers in the country with cigarette butts and plastic waste being biggest problem.
He said Urban Awa didn't target the rubbish because another council initiative is installing litter traps across the region.
Schools, shops and supermarket car parks were among the worst to produce litter that ends up in storm water and finally the waterways.
National database Litter Intelligence shows huge improvements for the Hātea in the past two years.