Leaders gather to discuss river progress

6 August 2012

Members of the Manawatu River Leaders’ Forum came together in Palmerston North on Friday to reflect on recent progress and look to the future in their efforts to clean up the catchment.

The meeting followed the recent signing of an agreement between the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and Horizons Regional Council detailing how $5.2 from Central Government’s Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-Up Fund will be spent.

Horizons science manager Jon Roygard said “The community wants to see results. Our focus for the past few months has been around getting contracts finalised, now that focus has shifted to getting projects underway on the ground and we’re already seeing some good work being done”.

Since the last Forum meeting, three groups of Conservation Volunteers have been working with the Manawatu Estuary Trust, NZ Landcare Trust and Horizons Regional Council to clear 0.5km of Whitebait Creek, plant 600 plants and fence 200m to help improve the whitebait habitat.

This type of work is set to continue with $160,000 worth of Government funding dedicated to restoring the whitebait habitat in at least two sub-catchments through stream fencing, planting, the removal of fish barriers and maintenance.

A catchment care group is now operating in the Oroua Catchment. This group is made up of representatives from local iwi, industry, community, council, government agencies and interest groups who will work together to improve and maintain the river starting with a small project in Haynes Line Creek.

It is hoped this model will be replicated in eight other areas throughout the Manawatu Catchment.

Gains have also been made around dairy compliance with Horizons reporting a record compliance rate of 91 percent for the 2011/12 season. This has been boosted by Fonterra’s Every Farm Every Year programme and the work of DairyLink in providing one-on-one support and advice for farmers.

Fonterra is also working to promote the need for farmers to meet Dairy and Clean Streams Accord targets via its Supply Fonterra agreement.

Dr Roygard said funding from Central Government will improve habitats for native fish and allow them to move more freely through the catchment, improve water quality through stream fencing, accelerate infrastructure upgrades, aid best practice on farm through the development of Environmental Farm Plans and help involve the community in improving and enhancing the river.

“The key thing for us is community involvement. We’ll be looking to fund at least eight community projects across two years that will make a real difference on the ground in line with Accord goals,” he said.

Criteria for this funding is currently being developed and applications are expected to open later in the year.

Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-Up Fund projects were chosen for their ability to accelerate enhancement efforts and encourage community involvement in areas of poor water quality. The Manawatu River projects include:

  • Stream fencing to exclude sheep and cattle from between 200 and 250km of waterways. This adds to work being done by the dairy sector under the Dairy Clean Streams Accord. It will result in lower levels of bacteria, nutrients and sediment in these waterways and improved native fish and trout populations.
  • Native fish habitat restoration in at least two sub-catchments and whitebait habitat restoration in at least two sub-catchments.
  • Upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, including land-based treatments during lower flows, in Tararua, Manawatu and Horowhenua.
  • The development of 60-80 environmental farm plans in priority areas of the Manawatu Catchment to help farmers achieve best practice in terms of nutrient management, water efficiency and riparian management.
  • Community involvement through at least eight community projects over the next two years.