The environmental strategy will be put into action in many ways, always with the long-term objective of protecting and enhancing the river’s ecological, mana whenua, open space and recreational values. These values are very much intertwined so most of the proposed actions have multiple benefits.
Some of the actions, such as governance, apply to the whole river. Others are site-specific, and these are grouped according to eight sections (‘reaches’) of the river that reflect the way the river corridor changes in character and key values along its length.
Planting locally indigenous species is a major focus throughout the river corridor. In some places exotic plants will continue to be used but overall, the proportion of native planting will increase over time. The planting will improve water quality by filtering runoff and stabilising riverbanks.
It will also enhance biodiversity by restoring native plant associations, improving wildlife habitat and reconnecting the river with nearby native forest. The increased shade, shelter and green character will enhance people’s enjoyment of the river corridor for recreation. Much planting has already been done in recent years by the regional council and community groups and will be ongoing.
Other actions to protect and enhance the river’s natural values are also proposed. These include removing barriers to fish passage and improving water quality by reducing sediments and pollutants coming into the river. For instance, created wetlands and stormwater detention basins are proposed to catch stormwater and filter out sediments that degrade the aquatic environment and contribute to periodic toxic algal blooms in summer.
Implementing the environmental strategy will depend on encouraging people to understand the river environment and get involved in its care. Key to this is good co-ordination. A governance structure is proposed to help integrate the efforts and resources of the many stakeholder interest groups. Mana whenua will be represented on an Implementation Group and provide guidance on kaitiakitanga for Te Awa Kairangi/Hutt River.
Other actions include setting up a community-based advisory group and providing additional support to theRiver Ranger to reflect the growing amount of visitor and community group activity along the river corridor. Improved communication and information will make flood management notices and updates, visitor information and interpretation about the river easily available to the public.
Public safety in the river corridor is another element, including such actions as establishing e-bike speed restrictions, managing drone activity and effectively monitoring and notifying the public about toxic algal blooms.
Access is a key focus for improvement and development. For instance, there are various ‘pinch points’ where there is not enough space for the different types of recreational users. These places are earmarked for investigation and implementation of solutions.
In other places, rationalising vehicle access and parking will help to resolve varying associated issues such as inadequate or unsafe parking, rubbish dumping, environmental damage or antisocial behaviour. Furthermore, there are opportunities to create more loop routes for walkers and cyclists by developing side routes that connect different parts of the river corridor.
With growing visitor numbers, visitor comfort is important. Facility upgrades at key destinations along the river corridor are to be prioritised to ensure regularly spaced and accessible toilets, drinking fountains, seating areas and signage / information boards.