A man who remembers swimming and fishing in a stretch of Manawatū River as a child dreams that one day his mokopuna might do the same.

That dream came one step closer to reality this week for Robin Hapi with news of a government grant of $100,000 towards a restoration project, announced at a meeting of the Horowhenua District Council.

Health warnings signs stand where Mr Hapi once threw his towel down and jumped in. He said generations were being denied their river.

"There's not too many in Foxton that can remember swimming in that water ... it was our food basket," he said.

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Mr Hapi, who is chairman of Save Our River Trust (SORT), said the Government grant from the Provincial Growth Fund marked progress after years of advocating for the river.

"We are now on the escalator," he said.

"There's not too many in Foxton that can remember swimming in that water...it was our food basket," Robin Hapi, chair of the Save Our River Trust said

"You have to start somewhere and this is as good an opportunity as we have had for those who have been fighting for its restoration."

Mr Hapi said he "would warn anyone against thinking it was now a home run ... but one thing Foxton is never short of is good ideas, resilient people and perseverance".

"This is certainly a major step forward for those who have worked tirelessly to have this part of the Manawatū River returned to the community of Te Awahou/Foxton," he said.

"While we have cause to celebrate ... there is still much to do to earn the confidence necessary for further investment.

"This is big for Foxton but also a milestone for Horowhenua. The river has and always will be an extremely important feature of our town.

"Those that have been involved in this for decades want to ensure that what we pass down to the next generation is better than what we inherited from the last, who unfortunately didn't have the opportunity, wherewithal and resources to make a difference."

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SORT's energies were focused on a part of the river known as "The Loop", once part of the Manawatū River and a bustling port that was now a silted up and stagnant backwater.

Exotic weeds flourish in its nutrient-laden waters and high E. coli concentrations meant it was unsuitable for recreational contact.

The Manawatū River stopped flowing through The Loop in the 1940s following a large flood after a government department carried out flood mitigation work.

HDC CEO David Clapperton said for decades Foxton locals had called for The Loop to be reopened and recently council funded a report into how that might occur.

"Foxton has transformed in the past few years into a bustling visitor destination thanks to significant council investment. This study will help us understand the community, recreational, tourism and economic impacts," he said.

"The investment by the Government announced today allows for scientific environmental research, a peer review of the GHD report into technical aspects, and a destination management study to be carried out."

A redeveloped River Loop would enhance the mana of nearby Manawatu River estuary which was internationally recognised and drew in a range of tourism and marine-related activities.
A redeveloped River Loop would enhance the mana of nearby Manawatu River estuary which was internationally recognised and drew in a range of tourism and marine-related activities.

A redeveloped riiver loop would enhance the mana of nearby Manawatū River estuary which was internationally recognised and drew in a range of tourism and marine-related activities.

"The project fits well with council's efforts to remove all treated wastewater discharges to waterways from across the district, including the Loop."

Mr Clapperton said a study would look at opportunities for commercially funded activities such as interpretive and educational facilities for children and the general public.

The focus would be on the river environment, infrastructure such as high quality toilets and the development of walkways and cycleway networks.

Fund official Di Grennell said a revitalised Foxton Loop was an issue close to the heart of iwi and the wider Horowhenua community.

"Restoring this waterway has potential to not only spark economic growth in the district but to help address a decades old situation that had had a lasting effect on the region," she said.

Piriharakeke was the Māori name given to the stretch of river that had many Māori pā in its path, and was culturally significant for Ngāti Raukawa.

In 1943 the Whirokino Cut was proposed with a weir as a spillway for flood events. But an unexpected flood during construction led to it becoming the main path of the Manawatū River.

High silt loads during flooding eventually cut The Loop from the main river.

A report in 2016 explored options for reopening The Loop, which showed it was possible by constructing a new diversion channel to connect to the previous river path.

The priority was a 2km section by the Foxton township that needed dredging and restoring water flow would dramatically increase water quality.

It was hoped that one day kayakers would be able to circumnavigate the nearby Matakarapa Island.