Joint project to improve south's water quality launched

Southern local government and business agencies are pooling resources to improve water quality in Southland without compromising the local economy.

The Southland Economic Project, a joint initiative between eight local government and business agencies, aims to marry the needs of the environment with the economic needs of the community.

The agencies involved will work together sharing information, science and economic goals.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said this was to ensure future decisions on managing water quality were made in the best interests of both the environment and the community.

This was particularly important since the regional council was looking to set catchment limits for water in the very near future.

"It's critical we do this in the right way for the community."

The project, launched at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff yesterday, will cost the council $75,000 a year and will last for two years.

DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Te Ao Marama, the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation and Southland Chamber of Commerce will also contribute.

DairyNZ senior economist Matthew Newman said balancing water quality and economics was complex.

Newman, who had been involved with similar projects in Canterbury and Waikato, said his experience was that joint ventures such as this were more effective than agencies going it alone.

It was an opportunity to ensure the analysis was robust and collaborative, he said. "Everyone agrees that water quality is essential - the question is what impact different policies have on the Southland economy and the wellbeing of our communities."

Beef + Lamb New Zealand southern South Island director Andrew Morrison said improving water quality was a journey all agencies needed to be involved in. Getting it wrong would have huge ramifications and it was crucial everyone fully understood the information and policies. The sheep and beef sector made a significant economic contribution to the Southland region and they wanted to ensure its impact was environmentally sustainable.

The project is part of Environment Southland's wider Water and Land 2020 and Beyond project, which is the council's response to the Government's national policy on freshwater management.

The Southland Times