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Crown Funding Kick-starts Work On Te Hoiere/Pelorus Restoration

Mayor John Leggett welcomes new Crown funding to start turning plans into action for restoring the health of the Te Hoiere/Pelorus catchment.

Announced by the Minister for the Environment Hon David Parker at the weekend, this $1 million investment by the Ministry’s Freshwater Improvement Fund will join a $100,000 investment by the Council and sizable financial and in-kind community support over the next five years to fund the initial stages of the Te Hoiere Project. This funding targets quick wins for water quality improvement and adds to the catchment investments previously announced by the Ministry for the Environment and Department of Conservation.

“Te Hoiere/Pelorus provides many economic, cultural, environmental and social benefits to the community, and we want to see this continue for future generations. While the catchment was classed as ‘good’ in the Council’s 2018 Monitoring Report, there are areas for improvement, particularly in some sub-catchments,” Mayor Leggett said.

Te Hoiere/Pelorus River is the largest river flowing into the Marlborough Sounds, and Council monitoring shows its health has deteriorated as a result of sedimentation, nitrogen runoff and E. coli. It’s a significant area for Ngāti Kuia, who have a long and rich association with Te Hoiere, and its exceptional biodiversity is home to 21 species that can’t be found anywhere else. A popular recreation area for camping, swimming and kayaking, it’s also an economic engine for local primary industries.

Community-driven planning has been under way for the Te Hoiere/Pelorus Catchment Restoration Project, an ambitious approach to restore catchment health from the mountains to the sea (ki uta ki tai). This new Crown funding will kick-start the physical work on the ground for the project, which is a community collaboration led by Ngāti Kuia, the Council and Department of Conservation. This funding joins earlier investments from the Ministry for the Environment to begin extensive water quality testing and create the Integrated Catchment Enhancement Plan. Both projects are under way with over 450 water samples collected for analysis since July 2020, and results are expected in late 2021.

The timing for this new funding is welcomed, as our approach is to tackle problems before the state of the catchment is beyond repair, Mayor Leggett said.

“This scale of restoration is rarely seen in New Zealand and only achievable by working together. The community has started forming sub-catchment groups and talking about priorities for the restoration and future management of their catchments. This new investment by the Crown will enable these community groups and the Council to build on existing work and better understand the work ahead,” Mayor Leggett said.

This latest funding will be used for a wider survey of conditions across the catchment and enable early win projects to improve water quality. The three-month survey would assess the condition of all streams and waterways in the catchment, noting features such as bank erosion, fencing, riparian buffers, critical source areas, in-stream conditions, weeds and fish barriers. Analysis of this data and working with landowners will provide both quick-win opportunities to improve water quality, as well as identifying other conditions that require longer-term solutions.

Council environmental science and monitoring manager Alan Johnson said early surveying of the catchment has shown promise for quick wins in some areas.

“We know that water quality is impacted in some areas mainly because of high E. coli and nitrogen concentrations. While many in the farming community are making great efforts to protect waterways, we now have funding available to build on this work and help landowners with further solutions, such as fencing,” Mr Johnson said.

If landowners choose to participate in the voluntary surveying, paid for by the Council and Crown, the information will be provided back to the landowner to help them get a head start on their freshwater farm plans, a future obligation under the Crown’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

Rai Valley farmer Hamish Morrison said the testing is an opportunity to understand what impact, if any, his family’s farm is having on water quality. Hamish encourages other landowners and managers in qualifying catchments to be part of the programme by allowing access for monitoring.

“With new freshwater rules, the more information you have the better. If there’s a nitrogen problem, we’ll look at fertiliser application. A phosphorus problem, we’ll look at effluent irrigation and storage,” Mr Morrison said.

The Te Hoiere/Pelorus project is a community collaboration and completely voluntary, Mr Johnson said.

“Success for the project is a thriving and environmentally sustainable primary sector, protected and enhanced ecosystems, and people and communities continuing to enjoy the well-being of the river,” Mr Johnson said.

Nationwide, Te Hoiere/Pelorus is one of 14 rivers identified for restoration by the Department of Conservation’s Ngā Awa rivers programme. It has also been identified as an exemplar catchment as part of the Ministry for the Environment’s At-Risk Catchments project. Funding is available for water quality improvement from both Crown programmes, following the completion of the Integrated Catchment Enhancement Plan this year.

The Freshwater Improvement Fund creates employment opportunities that will improve the management of New Zealand’s lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and wetlands. The investment in Te Hoiere/Pelorus is expected to create dozens of new jobs for the five-year life of the funding, from surveying to building fences.

For more details on the Government funding announcement visit here: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/19-projects-will-clean-and-protect-waterways

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