River users to benefit from new pest plant push

A new concept plan to control pest plants and weeds along riverbeds could create more opportunities for recreational uses along riverbanks.

In a first for the country, Environment Southland has created the ''Managing Unwanted Vegetation in Southland Rivers Concept Plan'' as a way to efficiently manage weeds and pest plants along riverbeds long term.

It has been developed in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand.

Environment Southland catchment works supervisor Ken McGraw said the plan was created after an annual meeting with the River Liaison Committee determined the annual budgets for controlling pest plants were increasing every year.

While plants such as gorse and broom were usually controlled by herbicides, Mr McGraw said it was time to investigate other options to identify the most cost-effective and efficient way to control the plants.

''It's a long-term approach to sustainably managing unwanted plants on the river beds.

''We want to reduce the costs and dependency on herbicides.''

Mr McGraw said the community was encouraged to give feedback on the plan about what they valued most about the river corridors.

''What comes out of this plan is the recreational value of river corridors - they are not just things that are important to the agricultural sector.

''They are also important to the wider community as places to recreate - they have landscape values and other qualities.''

Three different options were being trialled for the next five years to determine if they would be effective, sustainable, and cost-efficient, as well as being beneficial to the land-owners undertaking the trials.

The first was a grazing trial, where stock would be able to graze in an area along the river berm until it was more stable.

The second was also using stock to thin out the plants, which would then be cut and carried.

The last trial involved planting native trees along the riverbanks to ensure there was biodiversity.