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Which rivers and lakes are important to you and why?

Which rivers and lakes are important to you and why?

People with an interest in the quality and quantity of the water in the Gisborne district rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands have till the end of the week to let Gisborne District Council know what’s important to them. Council will be drafting a plan for freshwater later this year. This follows three years of working with the Freshwater Advisory Group that includes representatives from agriculture, horticulture, iwi, environment, and recreation interests.

We can’t plan for our freshwater resource without having a really good understanding of what’s happening with it, what’s affecting it and what can be done about it, says policy manager Jeff Hextall. “There have been more than 25 technical reports produced to inform this process. This research work will continue.”

“We are still in the information collection phase of developing the freshwater plan. At the moment we are particularly interested in understanding what’s important to the people in the district and especially which waterways they value and the reasons for this. This will help us to focus priorities.”

Late last year a number of freshwater workshops were held throughout the district. Over 150 people attended these meetings. “We gathered a lot of feedback from these meetings but it would be really helpful to have more written submissions.”

A discussion document, a summary of that document and a submission form are available on Council’s website or can be picked up from Customer Service in Fitzherbert Street or Te Puia Springs.

“On the submission form we ask if people think there are any waterways that need improving and if there are any waterways that they think need protecting. We understand that water is important to different people for different reasons. Some people value it for fishing and recreation others for irrigation and watering stock. In the recent water crisis more people came to value the availability of water in the Mangapoike dams as a source of drinking and household water and the means to keep their gardens thriving”, added Mr Hextall.

There has been an increased interest in the quality of water in many of Gisborne’s popular recreational hotspots since water quality data was published on Council’s website late last year.
We have been testing water quality in over 30 coastal and freshwater spots around the district for many years now, says Sarwan Kumar, regulatory services manager. “The results of the water testing have not changed significantly recently. Signs have been erected for some time in areas where the water consistently does not meet health guidelines warning people of this fact.”

“Now that we have the ability to display the considerable amount of data we collect in an easy to read format online, the public have the opportunity to be better informed. It is important to remember that while our water quality is far from perfect, we are not aware of any confirmed cases of people getting ill after swimming in our waterways.”

“The reality is that many of our fresh waterways are affected after heavy rain. Bacteria levels increase as the rivers become highly sedimented and contaminated from the agricultural run-off upstream,” added Mr Kumar.

If the community wants to have better quality freshwater then this is an important opportunity to provide that feedback, says Mr Hextall.

“There are definitely challenges due to the physical characteristics of the region, but there are opportunities for improving water quality. We will look at what the costs and implications of these opportunities might be as we move through the process of developing the freshwater plan.”

There will be further opportunities for the public to have their say on what goes in the freshwater plan once it is drafted. Responses to water quality and related issues are also likely to feature heavily in Council consultation this year as it looks again at its long term planning.

Submissions close at 5pm of Friday 24 January 2014. http://www.gdc.govt.nz/freshwater-plan-development/


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