Keeping a closer eye on our rivers

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:29 10/06/2014
Luke Burke
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
NEW TOOL: Residents can keep up to date with projects and events on the Maitai River on a new website.

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Residents in Nelson and Tasman are now able to keep a watchful over the state of their rivers and report any concerns with a newly launched website.

The Land, Air, Water Aotearoa, or LAWA, site allows communities to look at more than 1100 freshwater sites along rivers and see water quality monitoring results.

The site also contains a noticeboard where residents can put up events based around local rivers.

It will be used by Nelson City Council and the community for notices about projects being done along the Maitai River and catchment.

Residents can also put up anything suspicious they see and councils will then be alerted and able to investigate.

The Nelson council was given a demonstration of the website last week.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese was enthusiastic about the project and how members of the community could be involved.

"This is a fantastic initiative that our council wants to get right behind. Water quality is something we are committed to improving," she said.

"This website will allow the community much better access to all the information they need to check the health of the region's rivers. I'm hopeful it will also help raise awareness of how everyone can do their part in keeping our rivers and streams healthy."

The site was launched in March and 16 regional and unitary councils, such as the Nelson and Tasman councils, contribute monthly data directly to the site, keeping it "live".

The site has taken four years to firm up and has been developed between councils, the Ministry for the Environment, the Cawthron Institute and Massey University, with data from across the country being sent to the Cawthron for validation.

It was also supported by the philanthropic Tindall Foundation as Sir Stephen Tindall experienced difficulty in accessing clear information about the state of New Zealand rivers.

"I have a personal interest in this project because I love swimming and love our waterways. I spend every summer holiday with my family around the water swimming, fishing and kayaking," he said at the time of the website's launch.

The website displays trends and measures the status of each river in terms of E coli, nitrogen, turbidity, and phosphorus, among other factors.

It measures these points against other rivers, but not to the highest possible standard - so while the Maitai at Riverside is in the best 25 per cent of New Zealand rivers in terms of E coli it does not necessarily mean it is up to the national standard.

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Nelson council staff will use the site as a tool to monitor rivers and improvements being made and it will be used for the Maitai River once the council finalises its $400,000 funding for projects to improve the health of the river.

Check out rivers at lawa.org.nz.

- The Nelson Mail

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