There has been a lot of talk about playgrounds and investments in community infrastructure lately. Gullies are part of this discussion, but who would know? They don’t get a lot of air time and are somewhat hidden from our everyday realities. They are down there somewhere, doing that awesome work of producing clear air for us, filtering our water, absorbing greenhouse gases, providing critical habitat for native animal species, and all sorts of other undervalued services.
At Go Eco, we think it’s time to celebrate the gullies for what they are – a network of a wonder in our city, a unique beautiful ecosystem, and the best adventure playground that our city could have!
At the Ten Year Plan briefing meeting on Tuesday, Gully Development didn’t make the staff’s list of projects recommended for funding. From their perspective, Gully Development should sit as an unfunded item in the Ten Year Plan. This is despite the fact that from their own assessment, informed by Hamilton’s leading ecologists, that Hamilton City really isn’t doing enough to restore our indigenous biodiversity. Only 1.5% of the city is ‘ecologically significant’ and this should be more like 10%.
Gerard Kelly, the Council’s Community Planting Coordinator, does a great job coordinating and supporting gully groups in our city, but he is effectively a one man band. The work that could be done far exceeds what he can achieve in his part-time role. The much loved Gully Restoration Programme was squashed quite a few years ago now. This programme provided plants, workshops advice and support for all those interested in supporting our gullies to thrive. It gave people a sense of what to do and how to do it, so that they could go on and make it happen. It’s been sorely missed. And the thing is, we are not talking big bucks to reinstate it.
A Gully Restoration Programme, similar to what we had before, would very likely receive co-funding from Waikato Regional Council and the Waikato River Authority. So, we’re talking somewhere in the vicinity of $10,000 from HCC to get it happening. We’ve heard this figure from a few sources, but the exact budget would need some more work. In any case, this is relatively small change compared to the millions being bandied about for other projects, and not even that close to the Council’s latest $25,000 spend on a city council building balustrade. So why doesn’t the project make the cut?
Our natural areas can be protected, nurtured, and held up as shining examples of our values as a city. When we invest in them, we demonstrate our care for our environment and the strength of our ecological values. So why is it that these places are so readily passed over as investment opportunities? Lake Rotoroa was mentioned in passing at Tuesday’s meeting – could this not be our greatest aquatic recreation facility? Some of our best scientist’s, including Professor David Hamilton, certainly think so.
With respect to ecological care, there appears to be an ongoing assumption that the community will take care of it. But here’s the thing: we won’t. It’s not because we don’t care, but, rather, more often because we don’t know enough. We’ve been schooled in all sorts of things, but not often in knowing and caring for our own environment and the ecology that exists around us. The Gully Restoration Programme provides us with the education, knowhow and support that we need to do the caring that we want to do.
We do have volunteers, passionate people willing to help, but what we often lack is education, leadership, coordination and facilitation. For relatively small change, our Council could invest in this, in our gullies and in us. And together, we can support Hamilton to be a thriving city of biodiversity, potentially unmatched by any other city in Aotearoa.
Let’s do this Hamilton! If you want to support a campaign to invest in restoration in Hamilton, get in touch with Anna at Go Eco: email@example.com
The Gully Restoration programme made a practical and helpful booklet which you can pick up from Go Eco or download the pdf version.