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Waipara River . . . Willows will be targeted during an ECan programme geginning next month. PHOTO: Supplied

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Restoring the natural character of the Waipara River, planting natives along its banks, and encouraging the return of wildlife, are the aims of the newly formed Waipara Catchment Rivercare group.

The group also wants to ensure a healthy environment which can be enjoyed by walkers and families.

Removing willow trees from the riverbed, controlling old man’s beard, and other invasive weeds, are top of the group’s list, along with a trapping programme for animal pests, restricting vehicle access in the river, and planting natives are actions put forward at a recent meeting to help achieve the group’s aims.

Group facilitator, Rima Herber, says the one representative of the 4WD community made it clear there were many who would object to being excluded from driving in the riverbed as it was a very valued form of recreation among off-road vehicle drivers.

Twenty seven people attended the meeting with several apologies, she said, with people expressing their commitment to work to restore the river, and acknowledging it would be a long-term undertaking.

Andrew Arps, the North Canterbury Zone Manager from ECan, told the group a willow control programme will begin in September to clear willows from the main channel of the Waipara River from half a kilometre above the state highway bridge down to the sea.

The willow trees will be cut down and removed, and the regrowth sprayed at a later date.

It was agreed to create three small working groups to tackle specific issues recreational vehicles. These groups will meet monthly.

The next Waipara Catchment Rivercare Group meeting will be held at 7pm on Tuesday, August 24, in the Waipara Pavilion, at the Glenmark Reserve. Leigh Love, a local fossil expert, will give a presentation. Mr Love discovered fossils of birds previously unknown to science, in the river. One bears his name, Australornis lovei.