The first of around 133,000 plants, shrubs and trees to be planted in three gullies on the Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway were heeled in earlier this month.
The planting is part of a Gully Restoration Plan developed with input from the project’s Tangata Whenua Working Group.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Acting Portfolio Delivery Manager Jo Wilton says the planting demonstrates a commitment to prioritising the environment alongside progress.
“We are doing more than just building a highway – we are improving these gullies the road passes over by clearing out weeds and pest trees and planting a huge variety of natives which will support the indigenous animals of the area.
“Restoring these weed-infested gullies to their former glory will greatly benefit the local long-tailed bat population and native lizards.”
Big trees to be planted will supplement existing kahikatea, which are favoured roosts for bats. A fenced sanctuary for lizards – removed from the expressway’s path – is located nearby and will be pulled down so the lizards can move into the improved gully environment.
The restoration work covers 10ha in three gullies at the southern end of the Hamilton section of the expressway, starting with the Mangaonua just south of Morrinsville Road and including the neighbouring Mangaharakeke and Mangaone gullies further south at Tamahere.
“Most exotic and pest trees have been removed, leaving only a few willows, pines and privet to provide cover. Weeds like honeysuckle, periwinkle, blackberry and gorse have been removed to make way for an array of native plants, mostly sourced from the area,” Ms Wilton says.
“Once these areas have been planted, there will be pest control for approximately the next five years to ensure possums, rats and stoats make way for the animals that have traditionally thrived in these areas – bats, birds and lizards.
“Neighbouring landowners have taken an interest in this work and many are involved in gully restoration on their own properties.”
About 100,000 plants will go into the Mangaonua, Mangaharakeke and Mangaone gullies this season, with the remaining 33,000 plants to go in next year.
Total plantings along the seven sections of the Waikato Expressway number more than 3 million, with the Hamilton section’s total 650,000.
The Hamilton section of the expressway is expected to open to traffic late next year.
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