Healthy rivers group puts gumboots on

HOLLY DOVE
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2014

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A multi-stakeholder group working on ways to protect the Waikato and Waipa rivers is getting out and about on field trips around the region to help them understand the community's perspectives.

After its third workshop, the Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG), including representatives of local government, farming communities, Maori interests, forestry, environmental groups and general community representatives, reported back to a Regional Council sub-committee meeting yesterday.

The group visited the dairy farm of Tokoroa's George Moss this month. Moss, who is a representative in the CSG, showed the group how operations on his farm relating to water quality were managed.

CSG chair Bill Wasley said the group realised there was no "one size fits all" approach for dealing with the impact farming has on water quality.

"In developing solutions, the group needs to be highly aware of the geographic, as well as the social and cultural diversity in the Waikato and Waipa river catchments. Strong evidence-based science will be required to develop solutions for reducing impacts on water quality."

Co-chair of the Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Committee, Alan Livingston, said it was good to get updated on the group's activities and that they seemed "well on track"'.

Having extensive consultation with stakeholder groups at the beginning would avoid litigation at the end of the process, he said.

The next visit will involve a trip to a King Country marae, gaining insight into the characteristics of the Waipu catchment.

The CSG is part of The Healthy Rivers Wai Ora Project, put into action in 2012, following a $4.5 million boost in funding from Waikato Regional Council's annual plan.

The CSG said it had agreed to focus on how to reduce the four main contaminants to waterways - nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and bacteria - by targeting the adverse effects of discharges in the Waipu and Waikato River catchment.

The committee will also be recommending that the regional council makes changes to the healthy rivers plan so that it can be measurable. Desired water quality levels, for instance, would be quantifiable and time-frames measured if the changes are made.

Livingston said that it would need to be flexible, and "provide an acceptable balance between economic[s] and environment".

He praised the committee for being a new, unique, model - co-governance between councillors and iwi - and said it seemed to be working extremely well.

"The principle [of co-governance] is excellent."

*Holly Dove is a Massey University journalism student.

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- Waikato Times

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