Drone project hoping to revilatise Hunua Ranges water supply

An aerial campaign is being trialled in an effort to protect one of Auckland’s major water sources, the four dams in the Hunua Ranges. 

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There’s concern that pine trees are causing silt to go downstream into the Hunua Lakes. Source: Seven Sharp

It’s aimed at replacing the surrounding pine plantations with native vegetation, in an effort to limit the silt runoff heading into the city’s water supply. 

The project uses drones to distribute millions of native seed pods. 

“Manuka, Kanuka, Mahoe, Karamu, a bit of magic fairy dust is in there, along with some organic material,” Sam Vye, of Envico Technologies, said. 

“When they hit the ground, they’ll basically just sit there waiting for some rain.” 

WaterCare has reclaimed more than 2200 hectares of a commercial pine forest in a bid to protect the damn’s freshwater from the catchment.

When the pines are harvested, it leaves the land exposed and unstable, able to seep off downstream and into the pool of water. 

“Pine forests bordering a water supply, they’re not great natives,” said WaterCare operations controller James Talbot. 

Envico Technologies' Sam Vye flies a drone distributing seeds in the Hunua Ranges. Source: 1 NEWS

“There is certainly a risk after those harvesting operations of silt getting into those streams and them downstream into the Hunua lakes.” 

That’s what happened four years ago when a week’s torrential rain turned the damn into brown sludge - overloading the Ardmore Water Treatment Plant.