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Where’s your wai? Public freshwater help sought

The public is being urged to use an on-line tool to let the Northland Regional Council (NRC) know which freshwater places they use (or want to use) and what for.

Councillor Justin Blaikie says the council is hoping as many people as possible will log on to www.nrc.govt.nz/wheresyourwai over a month-long feedback period which began yesterday (subs: Mon 22 Oct) and runs until Saturday 24 November.

“We’re keen to find out about the freshwater spots people use around Northland, and what the water’s like there, so we can work out the best ways to look after our wai (water).”

“The ‘Where’s your wai? online tool is really simple to use; people just need to visit www.nrc.govt.nz/wheresyourwai to mark their spot/s on the map, and tell us a bit about it which will both help ensure we’re monitoring water quality in the right places and also monitoring the right things.”

The tool allows people to indicate their main uses of freshwater spots for activities including swimming, fishing and other recreational activities, mahinga kai (harvesting natural resources, including food), cultural reasons and water takes (for example stock drinking water).

Councillor Blaikie, the NRC’s Hokianga-Kaikohe constituency representative, says while the council had already expended a great deal of time and resourcing on water quality issues in recent years, Northlanders had repeatedly urged it to do even more.

“As a result, water quality is one of three priority areas in our new Long Term Plan and we’ve increased funding for improving water management by an extra $5.7 million over the next three years.” (The other priority areas are reducing the impact of pest animals and plants and aquatic invaders, and boosting flood protection works.)

Councillor Blaikie says given freshwater is such a critical resource – and the associated importance Northlanders attach to it – he’s urging as many people as support the ‘Where’s your wai?’ initiative.

“The more people who participate, the better picture we’ll have about the freshwater places people use and the better we can prioritise where and how to focus our freshwater efforts.”

Councillor Blaikie says the tool will also help council see if there are any new water quality issues surfacing which it needs to focus on, identify local and region-wide issues with water quality and whether it can do more to address these.

“Finally, it will inform how we implement the government’s current and future freshwater policy directives – including swimming water quality targets (which all regional councils are required to do by the end of the year) – as there are already a few of these in the pipeline.”

He says the blunt – and frustrating – truth is that there’s no ‘quick fix’ for the region’s water quality issues. “Much of the good work happening today won’t be reflected in our water quality results for a number of years; it really is a long-term investment.”

But while Northland still had a long way to go, “the journey’s well underway, things are getting better and in fact we already have more improving water quality trends than declining ones”.

He says many people and organisations – including the regional council – care deeply about improving Northland’s water and are collectively working very hard to drive change.

“More and more landowners are investing in water quality initiatives such as excluding livestock from rivers and lakes and planting riparian areas and whole communities are getting behind local water quality plans and initiatives.”

Similarly, he says huge investments are being made in district council sewerage systems, and farm wastewater systems are being improved as a result of industry and council initiatives.

“Rules on activities that can impact water quality are also getting tighter.”

Councillor Blaikie says more information on the council’s role in caring for Northland’s water is available online via www.nrc.govt.nz/water

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