Two remote lakes south of Kawhia Harbour are to benefit from restoration work following successful funding applications to the Department of Conservation's Community Fund.
Lakes Piopio and Rototapu are part of the larger Taharoa lakes wetland that have been impacted by water quality pollution over a long period and are now under a comprehensive restoration plan being led by local iwi through the Taharoa Lakes Trust, with support from DoC and Waikato Regional Council.
Initial works will include conventional fencing of the lakes, followed by planting of nearly 5000 trees of mixed native species within the riparian margins.
Operations director for DoC's Hauraki-Waikato-Taranaki Region, David Speirs, says the two lakes are part of a complex of seven shallow freshwater dune lakes centred around Taharoa, the largest. Together they make up the only significant coastal freshwater wetland between Kaipara Harbour to the north and the South Taranaki bight.
"Prior to the commencement of iron sand mining operations in 1972, Taharoa was a small, isolated community with no road access," he says.
"Since then developments of various kinds have gradually impacted negatively on native biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems, reaching the point where local iwi recognise the need to intervene with restoration work."
Work planned over the next 12 months will see the two lakes fenced to prevent stock access and restoration planting to restore biodiversity values and reduce invasive weeds.
David says the trust's initial strategy is to implement improvements over the next three years, to which DoC has this year contributed $50,000.
"The trust recognises these small beginnings need to continue over a long period to achieve their aims and objectives for restoring this wetland which forms an important part of the local 'food basket'. What they aim to achieve also sits very neatly into DoC's long-term objectives of helping local people connect with nature, restoring freshwater systems from mountain to sea and facilitating the ability of whanau, hapu and iwi to undertake their responsibilities as kaitiaki of natural and cultural resources."
The project is also receiving funding support from Waikato District Council, NIWA and businesses.