Riverbank project marks 10 years

The banks of the Waihōpai River are almost unrecognisable compared with how they looked 10 years ago.

Ten years of the Waihōpai Planting Restoration Project were celebrated by Environment Southland (ES) at the planting site yesterday with activities for the public and local school pupils, including a treasure hunt, a hands-on demonstration and bird identifications, as well as a barbecue lunch and discussions about the history and progress of the site.

The area was bought by ES in the late 1970s following major flooding, and a retention dam was built shortly after.

Land sustainability officer Anastasia Raymond said the site had become a learning area for local schools, many of which had volunteered to plant the area.

James Hargest College pupils, some of whom had volunteered to help plant, with the Waihōpai...
James Hargest College pupils, some of whom had volunteered to help plant, with the Waihōpai Restoration Project sign unveiled during celebrations marking the project’s 10th year on Monday. PHOTO: BEN TOMSETT

"We made it a kind of big infrastructure area with the dam and the stopbanks to protect the city, and then after a while we thought Invercargill turned its back on its major waterway, the Waihōpai, that runs through it," she said.

"So together with other councils, we’ve been building a boardwalk up there and a walkway, and then we thought ‘wouldn’t it be cool if this area was rehabilitated back to its native plantings?’ ... so it’s quite a special project."

The plants would not only beautify the area, but improve the water quality and bring a variety of native birds to the city.

ES chairman Nicol Horrell said it was a fantastic project.

"We’ve got the schools involved, and I’m just thinking it’d be great to get more of the community involved in the plantings," Mr Horrell said.

"We’ll get shading, we’ll get water quality benefits, but also it’ll return bird life to the city."