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Search For Fairest Ways To Manage Resources

Scientists Search For Fairest Ways To Manage Natural Resources

Landcare Research has joined forces with the Tasman District Council and the Cawthron Institute, in a government-funded research project that aims to resolve complex water management problems in an area of national economic importance - the Motueka River catchment.

Three interlinked issues are driving the research. Firstly, there are competing demands for water for irrigation and for the internationally recognised trout fishery, as shown in the current debate over the Motueka Water Conservation Order, relating to minimum river flows. Secondly, there is huge aquaculture potential in Tasman Bay, particularly for mussel and scallop farming. However, land and river activities can affect water quality, and therefore the viability of these fisheries. Thirdly, there are differing opinions on how land uses like forestry and pastoral farming affect river and groundwater flows and quality.

Scientists from the three organisations have just embarked on a unique six-year programme, which takes a holistic look at the cultural, economic and political issues of different resource uses, as well as scientific considerations. They are looking at the broader picture of how much water is available and how it can best be allocated, rather than focussing on individual elements. They are studying a wide range of processes, including nutrient and pollution issues, sediment generation, the impact of gravel extraction, and opportunities for restoration. The scientists will use a wide range of research methods including computer simulations, to help develop models of land/river/coastal interactions. There is also a social research aspect, looking at how communities respond to research information, and how they can influence the research that is done.

Public input will be a crucial part of the project. A Community Reference Group of residents and interest groups in the Motueka catchment will be formed shortly as a sounding board for the research. Technical input will also be sought from industry sectors like forestry, horticulture and fisheries, and also from tourism, recreational and environmental interests. Scientists will report back to the public on their progress, through the Tasman District Council*s *Newsline*, community meetings, and through a website currently under construction.

*Scientists in the past have not been all that good at integrating the opinions and knowledge of the community* says Landcare Research biogeochemist and hydrologist, Dr Breck Bowden. *But people who live in an environment have a special insight into the long-term behaviour of the system they live in. We need their input to decide what the issues are, and in turn, to pass on the knowledge we gain in our research.

*We also need to know how it is that stakeholders use information to make decisions. If our results are not taken up, we might as well not have done the research in the first place*.


For more information, contact: Breck Bowden Programme leader Landcare Research Lincoln wk: (03) 325 6701 x3738 hm: (03) 338 6750 mobile: 025 228 9237

Andrew Fenemor Manager Environmental Information Tasman District Council wk: 03 544 3412

Jon Harding Stream ecologist Cawthron Institute Nelson wk: (03) 548 2319

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