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Farmers and landholders were among those who attended the inaugural meeting. Photo: Supplied

Plans to form Maratoto enviro group

Maratoto Valley residents are joining forces to establish a catchment group under the authority of the New Zealand Landcare Trust to support its natural environment.
Group leader Tim Cruickshank, who’s lived in the Hikutaia valley for around 20 years, told The Profile he aimed to bring the community together to take ownership of any landcare issues to improve the quality of the 50-square kilometre area.

“This is the first group of landowners within the Waihou catchment to work together to potentially form a catchment group,” he said.
“It will be the formation of a not-for-profit organisation… to try and plan ahead and encompass the ideas and interests of everybody,” he said.
Tim said he and NZ Landcare Trust Waikato catchments co-ordinator Ric Balfour held a meeting at Hikutaia Hall on March 31 to bolster membership.
“The group [of around 12 people] that turned up were very interested in sharing and being part of a group like this, they can see the benefits of it,” he said.
“It was a representative group of farmers and landholders who were keen to continue so we’ve set another date… and hopefully we will be able to get some of the bigger groups who have expressed interest.”

The Maratoto Valley.

Tim said the first environmental challenge facing the valley, which the catchment group was keen to resolve, was its “pretty nice” native bush being plagued by predators.
“We’ll find possums, rats, stoats, weasels and ferrets in our catchment… they’ve had a big impact on bush quality and as the bush quality fades, the loss of biodiversity lies,” he said.
“So an area of interest in the group is to try and bump up the biodiversity protection within our land holding that adjoins the bush so that the bush is able to work as one to maintain water quality.”
Tim said the second environmental challenge was track damage caused by some 4WD vehicles.
“That’s an area of concern for locals because they then struggle to use the tracks for their own walking use and makes it more difficult to take the family down to swim in parts of the [Hikutaia] river,” he said.
“People are interested in track access in this Valley, people are interested in swimming in clean water and their family enjoying the native birds.
“So a lot of these projects [for the group] will all build towards maintaining this as a nice Valley to visit.”
Tim said the second catchment group meeting would be held on May 3 at 5:30pm.