Waihao Wainono Community Catchment Group chairman Roger Small hopes to build public awareness around local environmental effects on the Waihao stream by increasing its recreational value. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

It is full stream ahead for the Waihao Community Restoration Project.

The project was established to redevelop the Waihao River area as a recreational amenity, and it is about to pick up momentum.

In February, the Waimate District Council approved the establishment of a memorandum of understanding with the Waihao Wainono Community Catchment Group.

Last year, the group was granted funding from the Canterbury Community Trust, on the condition it gained approval from the Waimate District Council.

Catchment group chairman Roger Small said the river area was once a nice spot for people to gather and enjoy a picnic.

But in 1986, the landscape was altered by flooding.

Mr Small said the plan was to fence the area off, plant native trees and shrubs, install public restrooms, and re-establish picnic areas.

The catchment group would work alongside Environment Canterbury, the Rotary Club of Waimate, Waimate Trackways, relevant landowners, and the Riverside Trust to complete the project.

The project covered a 2km area, including the black hole swimming area, the Waihao walkway, and the picnic area owned by the Waimate council.

Some planting had already been done, and some willows had been removed.

The overall goal was to increase the recreational amenity value of the area in order to build awareness around the local environmental impact.

“As a catchment group we were keen to get involved with a biodiversity project,” Mr Small said.

“We are about educating people in the area about our environment and [educating] people around good practices so we don’t affect the quality of the waterways, and improve them over time.”

The group also hoped to influence farmers to make more positive changes.

To Mr Small, who was also a farmer, doing the practical, hands-on work was a much more effective approach than a “top-to-bottom” regulatory approach.

The idea was that the people closest to the issue could make the best decisions that worked for everyone involved.

“We still need a thriving economy . . . it’s a win-win for both.”

Two years into the project, the catchment group hoped to complete it in a year or so.