The Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord, led by Horizons Regional Council, has been recognised for its contribution to the environment as a winner in the 2013 Ministry for the Environment’s Green Ribbon Awards.
The annual awards celebrate outstanding contributions by individuals, organisations, businesses and communities to restore and enhance New Zealand’s environment.
Horizons took out the Public Sector Leadership category, awarded for a project within the public sector that has made a measurable difference and/or resulted in environmental behaviour change.
Horizons chairman Bruce Gordon described the award as “representative of hard work by both Horizons Regional Council and the wider community through the Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord”.
“While changes in water quality are not quick to be measured, what we can measure are the actions taken by the community over the past two years.
“In this time we have seen parties with diverse interests come together, lay individual agendas to one side and unite with a shared vision of improving the Manawatu River. This collaboration is an achievement in itself and work is already well underway across the catchment to improve the state of our river,” he said.
Since community, industry, iwi and council leaders came together to sign the Accord in 2010, a number of milestones have been achieved.
Under Horizons’ Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI), 48 Whole Farm Plans have been developed for properties within the Manawatu catchment since 2010. These plans help farmers achieve best practice in terms of nutrient management, water efficiency and riparian management.
Horizons has also worked in partnership with landowners to co-fund 173 kilometres of stream fencing and 33,000 native plants have been planted along riparian margins. Plans are in place to plant a further 20,000 native plants and fence 70 kilometres of stream.
The Accord is playing a key role in resolving outstanding consents to discharge to waterways in the catchment. There are no longer any discharges of dairy shed effluent to water in the catchment and three territorial authorities are looking at options for land-based treatment of effluent during low river flows.
Compliance among dairy farmers is also on the rise, with a record 91 per cent compliance in the 2011/12 season.
These actions have been strengthened through funding from central government’s Fresh Start for Freshwater Clean-Up Fund, which is being put towards a suite of eight projects including stream fencing, upgrades to urban wastewater treatment plants, habitat restoration for native fish and whitebait, environmental farm plans and community projects.
“The Manawatu River Leaders’ Accord is a living example of what can be achieved through collaboration,” Mr Gordon said.
“As a regional council we are proud to be leading such an initiative and very optimistic for the future of the Manawatu River.”