Open day celebrates Waituna wetlands

It is time for dirty hands and for farmers to trial new methods in the fight for a healthy Waituna catchment area, the Department of Conservation says.

Fonterra and the Department of Conservation had clocked up one year of their 10-year partnership to improve the Waituna catchment. and the next 12 months would be a time of action, DOC said.

The milestone was marked with a community open day in the wetland area yesterday.

Fonterra representatives, DOC staff, Waituna farmers and school pupils attended the event.

Fonterra Living Water project manager Nicola Toki said the event was to celebrate the Waituna community involvement and commitment by farmers to the project during the first 12 months.

"Protecting and enhancing remaining wetland fragments on private land can have a significant effect on the health of the catchment and we will be working with our farmers to protect these areas," she said.

There were about 130 farms in the Waituna catchment and 36 were Fonterra farms, Toki said.

"Our farmers are doing great work already, fencing waterways and taking a hands-on approach to understanding nitrogen leaching risk. Our aim is to complement and enhance these activities with robust science to support decision making and speed up the improvements," she said.

Third generation Waituna farmer Gerald Spain said once there was a time when farmers were encouraged to clear land and drain wetlands.

However, the farmers bordering the Waituna Wetlands were making a conscious effort to do their part in keeping the catchment healthy, he said.

"Many farmers have spent thousands of dollars on mitigation work on their farms. Some of this work has been above and beyond the requirements of the regional council," he said.

DOC Commercial Partnerships director Geoff Ensor said with key parts of the science and measurement in place, those involved in the partnerships could really get their hands dirty.

"We will be trialling different pasture types to reduce phosphorous losses, installing and monitoring two passive filters to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous loss and working with the community to plant along various banks and waterways," he said.

Pupils from Gorge Road School attended the open day and took part in demonstrations with freshwater scientists, a live fish tank display of local freshwater species. Josh Phillips, 12, said it was important to learn about the wetlands and about its health.

The Southland Times