Catchment revival expert to speak
ABay of Plenty catchment restoration project will be the topic of discussion when Lakes and Waterways Action Group hosts Alison Dewes at its June meeting. Alison, whose master’s thesis was on economic resilience and environmental performance of dairy farms in the upper Waikato region, will present on “A community-led Bay of Plenty Project” based on improving ecological outcomes for Te Waih¯ı Estuary. The catchment comprises 34,000 hectares and runs from the mountains just below the Rotorua lakes to the Bay of Plenty coast. There are about 220 orchards and 69 dairy farms upstream from the estuary. “Te Waih¯ı estuary is in a poor and declining ecological state,” says Alison. “It has had a permanent shellfish gathering ban for a long time. There are also biodiversity threats from pest plants and animals.” Wai Ko¯kopu, a group made up of tangata whenua, landowners and environmental groups with funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries, is working to replenish Te Waih¯ı estuary, which is known as one of the most polluted in the country. A big focus of the group and the restoration programme is to see firm bottom lines for nitrogen levels in water, and its use — leading to tighter rules in order to protect mahinga kai, aquifers and waterways. While dairying makes up 35 per cent of the land area, it may contribute up to 65 per cent of the nitrogen load. With a big focus on pathogen losses as well, attention is drawn to a significant number of small, unlined effluent ponds requiring attention. Land-use change is occurring to kiwifruit and avocados, often irrigated. There is a lot of work under way helping all growers understand the nitrogen cycles, sources and how to reduce reliance on it. Significant reductions of nutrients, sediment and E.coli are needed for the Waih¯ı Estuary to reach a moderately healthy state. Alison is utilising her expertise in agricultural economics and ecosystem health to work with sectors to develop digital farm planning with a catchment focus. “It is heartening to see that there is significant buy-in from our community and primary sector agencies,” says Alison. She and the other drivers of the project believe there are opportunities to build capability and create local employment; to incorporate ma¯ tauranga Ma¯ ori; and to use innovation and technology to create transformational and intergenerational change. This presentation is part of a series of talks on catchment restoration projects in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. All are welcome to attend at 5.15pm on Thursday, June 17 upstairs at the Taupo¯ Library.