The Horizons Region covers a large part of the central to lower North Island and is home to a wide variety of landscapes from mountains and ranges to fertile coastal floodplains. It stretches from just north of Taumarunui to south of Levin on the west coast, and across to the east coast from Cape Turnagain to Owhanga.
At 22,215 square kilometres the region (also known as the Manawatu-Whanganui Region) accounts for approximately 8.1% of New Zealand’s land area and is home to about 220,000 people with approximately half living in the two largest population centres, Palmerston North and Whanganui. Both straddle lowland reaches of major rivers – the Manawatū and Whanganui respectively. Other, smaller towns and settlements have established themselves along the region’s waterways and water is an important resource for them.
Extensive agriculture, mainly sheep and beef farming, accounts for more than half the land use (51%) with dairying using about 6.7% of the total area including large parts of the Manawatu-Horowhenua coastal floodplain. Forestry covers 7.6% and just under a third of the land area (30.9%) is in native cover, including nationally important forests and the protected Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks.
Overall water quality in the headwaters of most rivers and streams is good. However, a range of factors causes the quality to decline as it journeys towards the coast. Natural influences on water quality include changes in climate, soil and landscape while man-made factors include land use and waste discharges. As agriculture has intensified over the past few decades there has been increased deforestation and hill country erosion as well as in the need for more water to be used for irrigation, all of which contribute to changes in water quality.
Rivers, streams and lakes are important for recreation in the region. Residents and visitors enjoy kayaking, swimming, rafting and fishing. Over summer, Horizons monitors the water quality at many popular swimming spots and the results are available on the Regional Council’s website and automated telephone line.
Horizons also has an extensive programme for monitoring and managing water quality and the amounts taken from waterways for agriculture and industry. The Regional Council’s scientists and technologists use both electronic and manual monitoring, sampling and reporting equipment for 65 State of the Environment (SoE) and 57 discharge water quality monitoring sites throughout the region.
Horizons manages increasing pressure on both surface water and groundwater. Farming, towns and industry require consents to take water out of the rivers and any potential contaminants that could impact on the health of our waterways are closely monitored.