In April 1998 a predecessor group called HEIRS (Hamilton Environmental Improvement in the Riverlea Suburb) was launched with the help of Hamilton City Council. The speed humps on Howell Avenue were a result of its lobbying, as were the footpaths and kerbs on Riverlea Road. The burning of bark on Riverlea Road ceased when HEIRS negotiated a solution: Hamilton Zoo rhinos ate it instead. Hammond Bush was greatly enhanced through working bees to weed, collect seeds, and plant hundreds of trees grown from that seed. In response to these efforts, Hamilton City Council fast-tracked construction of the boardwalk and footbridge. A newspaper, The Riverlea Rag, kept residents up to date.
The Riverlea Environment Society (RESI) was formed in 2007 when our community faced the possibility of an air discharge consent being granted to a company that wanted to build an asphalt plant on the industrial land bordering Riverlea. Over 500 submissions were made opposing the consent. The Waikato Regional Council commissioned an assessment of the site’s suitability for an asphalt plant, which concluded that the site was unsuitable. The asphalt company, Blacktop Construction Ltd, withdrew its application. Riverlea Environment Society celebrated this, and thanked BlackTop for listening to the community.
Around the same time, RESI launched monthly working bees to continue the restoration of Hammond Park bush. These have continued ever since and have achieved significant transformation of the bush. We are grateful to the ongoing support of Hamilton City Council in this endeavour, particularly the Community Planting Co-ordinator Gerard Kelly.
In 2013 the society played an active role in the Hamilton City Council’s District Plan review. When submissions were called for, we engaged a planner and a lawyer, and guided our community towards making a large number of submissions aimed at preventing heavy or dirty industry being allowed to operate in the Riverlea Industrial Area. Our submissions were heard, and in 2014 the District Plan provisions were changed to make it clear that heavy or offensive industry is not appropriate in the Riverlea area.
In 2016 we expanded our restoration impact by contracting a Community Conservation Co-ordinator, funded by the Waikato Regional Council. This role enabled us to engage with residents of properties neighbouring Hammond Park to advise and assist them to restore their own properties with native planting
In 2017 the society was consulted about routing the Te Awa River Ride through Hammond Park. We were able to point out the environmental damage that would be caused by widening the narrow boardwalk to convert it into a path that would be suitable as a major cycle route. However, its narrowness also makes it too dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians to share. The boardwalk will therefore be a walking-only section and cyclists will either have to dismount for a few minutes of walking or take an on-road alternative.
In 2017 we also launched Pest-Free Riverlea with the help of a Kiwibank grant as part of the wider Predator-Free new Zealand movement.
In 2018 the society submitted on a resource consent application by Weston Lea Ltd to build a housing subdivision on riverside farmland directly opposite Hammond Park. RESI played a major role in the hearing on the application and subsequent appeals to the Environment Court and helped navigate significant changes to the original proposal, including a broad riverside buffer of reserve land. This was vital to protect the future of the critically threatened long-tailed bat, which uses both Hammond Park and the land proposed for development.