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2014 New Zealand River Awards

Media Release:

2014 New Zealand River Awards

Embargoed until 10pm Thursday 27 November 2014

Two Canterbury waterways – the Otukaikino and Cam - took out 1st and 3rd place in the 2014 New Zealand River Awards for the most improved rivers in the country. The Oroua River in the Manawatu was the 2nd most improved river in New Zealand.

“The improvement in all three rivers has been driven mainly by better sewage treatment”, said Andrew Gawith from the Morgan Foundation. “It’s a case of towns taking more responsibility for water quality in their local rivers.”

Landowners and community groups have also played a part in the improvement with riparian fencing and planting of waterways and wetlands, and also planting of erosion-prone hill country in the case of the Oroua catchment.

In addition to Awards for the three most improved rivers nationally, judges Dr Roger Young (Cawthron Institute) and Dr Clive Howard-Williams (NIWA) also identified the most improved river in each region where suitable data was available. This year improvement is being measured by the long-term decline in dissolved reactive phosphorus[1] levels.

The Regional Award winners were:
Monitoring site / trend improvement / Regional Council
Mangere Stream at Knight Rd / (14.5%) / Northland
Lucas Creek / (9.5%) / Auckland
Ohinemuri River at Queens Head / (10.7%) / Waikato
Poukawa Stream at Stock Road / (7.3%) / Hawkes Bay
Waingongoro River at SH45 / (3.8%) / Taranaki
Motupipi at Reillys Bridge / (6.3%) / Tasman
Dunstan Creek at Beattie Road / (14.5%) / Otago
Mataura at Seaward Downs / (5.5%) / Southland

The three most improved rivers were: /
South Branch (Otukaikino) Dickeys Road / (37.8%) / Canterbury
Oroua River at Awahuri Bridge / (19.6%) / Horizons
Cam River at Bramleys Road Bridge / (19.0%) / Canterbury

The Awards evening also featured a river story from each region. All are inspiring examples of local people doing something remarkable for New Zealand’s rivers and streams. There were three finalists for the 2014 New Zealand River Story Award:
• Two teachers from Dunedin who have worked with Otago University scientists to develop rigorous water testing procedures for school students – this is a great example of developing young citizen scientists
• A farming community in the upper Rangitata that has taken on pest plants that threaten their grand braided river. Through effective collaboration they have got on top of the broom and other exotic plants in the river valley.
• The Award winning story is about one man, Bill Kerrison, who has worked tirelessly for decades trapping and transferring eels and other native fish species past the dams on the Rangitaiki River in the Bay of Plenty.


[1] Disssolved reactive phosphorus

High concentrations of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) can lead to the growth of river algae and slimes on riverbeds, which can smother the habitat of other freshwater organisms and cause other water quality issues (high pH and low dissolved oxygen).

The main human-derived sources of phosphorus in rivers include sewage (yes, pouring poorly treated sewage into rivers!), animal effluent, accelerated erosion of phosphorus-rich land and runoff of fertiliser from farm land.

Townies and farmers can, and are doing, a lot to tackle the problem of high levels of DRP in our rivers, including:

• diverting urban waste-water to land or sea, or better still, further treatment of waste-water
• improving farming practices to reduce erosion and retain soils
• minimising fertiliser loss near streams through more careful application
• fencing to prevent stock access to waterways
improving riparian management to prevent phosphorus in surface runoff from reaching waterways

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