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Funding focus . . . Milford Lagoon, just south of Temuka, is the focus of one project funded under Environment Canterbury's Immediate Steps programme. The lagoon, near the Opihi River, is a whitebait spawning site. PHOTO: ECAN/SUPPLIED

by Greta Yeoman

Improving whitebait spawning habitats, supporting native bats and fencing out stock in the Mackenzie are just some of the recent projects funded by Environment Canterbury’s Immediate Steps biodiversity funding scheme.

The programme provides funding for biodiversity partnerships between water zone committees and residents.

Environment Canterbury Canterbury Water Management Strategy planning team leader Dann Olykan said the Immediate Steps biodiversity funding was about “achieving some quick wins” and recognising that natural ecosystems were the “lungs of the environment”.

He said the funding scheme – which is allocated by water zone committees – was founded to begin to restore the region’s ecosystems and to work with landowners and groups to improve water quality.

Two-thirds of the funding comes from rates and one-third from land-owner contributions.

Each water zone committee allocates $100,000 per year for protecting and restoring biodiversity in and around freshwater habitats.

Projects over the past few months have included improving the habitat of long-tailed bats in the Orari Temuka Opihi Pareora (OTOP) water zone and the focusing on helping native fish, like the bignose galaxias, in the Upper Waitaki.

A landowner in the OTOP zone has been working with the committee to improve the whitebait spawning site at Milford Lagoon, near the Opihi River, by controlling predators, planting native plant species, clearing weeds and removing willows in the lagoon and its wetland margins.

Another project has focused on fencing stock on farmland to keep them away from waterways in the Mackenzie Basin, while others have undertaken predator control, Mr Olykan said.

Any individual, landowner, community, conservation or recreational group seeking to protect or restore indigenous plants or animals and their habitat, waterways, wetlands and dunes can apply for the Immediate Steps fund.

Initial contact can be made via the funding inquiry form on the Environment Canterbury website.

A local biodiversity officer will then provide assistance to complete an application.