Bay of Plenty Regional Council has announced it will expand on existing efforts to maintain and protect the environment this year.
Chair Doug Leeder says this work is so important that 33 per cent (more than $56 million) of the council's $171 million annual budget has been allocated to it.
The amount is higher than what is allocated for any of the organisation's other four outcomes.
“The community has asked for more work to be done in this area and we therefore consider it a priority,” says Doug.
He says the council's comprehensive environmental monitoring programme supports the Bay of Plenty's sustainable development, with air quality, biosecurity and pollution prevention all named focus areas for the coming year's work.
Projects include continuing the Kopeopeo Canal remediation project, improving the quality of aquatic habitats within the canal and wider drainage network, and facilitating drainage and flood relief within the Rangitāiki Drainage Scheme.
The council is also responsible for managing air quality so it doesn't impact negatively on community health, well-being and the environment.
“While the Bay of Plenty generally enjoys good air quality compared to some other parts of the country, significant issues across the region include open burning in urban areas, domestic burners in Rotorua, agrichemical spraying, pre-shipment fumigation and intensive farming,” says Doug.
“Changes are proposed in the council's new Regional Air Plan to address these issues, such as expanding air quality monitoring around the Mt Maunganui industrial area and putting in place greater controls around domestic heating burners in Rotorua homes.
“The Bay of Plenty region has relatively good air quality, however air pollution can affect our health and the enjoyment of our environment so we need to manage it carefully,” Doug says.
The regional council is also investing in research and containment of catfish in the Rotorua lakes area after a live catfish was found in Lake Rotoiti in 2016.
While most of the catfish population appears to be around Te Weta Bay, an aquatic pest cordon was installed in April 2017 to prevent further spread around the lake.
The council is also closely monitoring Lakes Tarawera and Rotoma to ensure catfish haven't spread to other lakes.
“We will also continue to support work by community groups and volunteers to improve our environment,” says Doug.
For further information about the regional council's environmental protection work visit the regional council's website: www.boprc.govt.nz