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Resilient River Communities

Funding clears the way for Kowhai River clean up

Kaikōura’s awa/river Kowhai will benefit from one of the region’s largest scale weed control efforts thanks to a $500,000 investment through our berm transition programme.

Removing weeds from the berms - the land next to the river - makes them more resilient against weed intrusion and more likely to be covered in diverse, native plant life. This berm transition work has many benefits including decreasing flood risk by supporting our flood-protection trees, re-establishing habitat for wildlife and increasing recreational value for the community.

As well as the awa Kowhai, Luke Creek and the awa Waimangarara are part of the weeding programme. By the end of these projects, more than 180 hectares in the Kaikōura area will be weeded, making this the largest river berm weed control in the district in recent years.

The berm transition programme

Through the berm transition programme, we are transforming 23 awa throughout Waitaha Canterbury, using a unique mix of three methods for each one. In Kaikōura no planting is needed as native species will flourish with space, instead, the programme involves extensive, targeted weeding.

Targeted weeding means leaving flood protection poplar trees, native undergrowth, and native forest alone while eliminating pest plants like old man’s beard, ivy, banana passion fruit vines, barberry, pampas grass and dying sycamores.

The Regionwide Berm Transition Project is part-funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit (64%), with the remainder co-funded by us through a combination of contributions from partners, operational funding, and rates.

Why do we target old man’s beard

Old man’s beard is a fast-growing pest plant. A single plant can cover up to 180 square metres and can climb to heights of 20 metres in a single season! In addition to catching and dismantling trees during high winds, the exotic weed kills other plants by smothering them and blocking out light. Thanks to co-funding from Central Government, we have dedicated resource to tackle this and other pest plants in Kaikōura waterways.

Clearing the weeds means there are:

  • more habitat for native wildlife,
  • reduced stress on flood protection vegetation and
  • a better chance for our native plants to reclaim territory where they once thrived.

Many weeds act as barriers to people as well, making otherwise pleasant areas inaccessible. This work will open some pockets, allowing communities to enjoy more of the river.

Undertaking this huge-scale work now means weeds can be better managed and controlled through our annual, regionwide weed control operations.

Weed control opportunity

Braided River Revival Regional Lead, Greg Stanley said this is the biggest investment Environment Canterbury has made to control weeds in Kaikōura waterways.

“Previous budgets have allowed maybe $20-30,000 a year for weed control but half a million bucks is unheard of.

“We’re using this funding boost from the Government as a great opportunity to make a difference in this area and others across the region,” says Stanley.

“By removing the mature pest plants, we can hopefully get weed levels down to a point where we’re able to control them with our routine annual, targeted weeding programmes.”