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River investment essential

More than $30m will be spent by Bay of Plenty Regional Council on science, restoration and policy work to protect and improve the region’s waterways this year.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council chair Doug Leeder said the region’s waterways were in good shape by national standards, but there’s more work to do to ensure clean, healthy waterways for the next generation.

“World Rivers Day is this Sunday, September 24. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on the roles rivers play in our daily lives.

We’ve made real gains in protecting water quality in recent years. But the cumulative effects of past land-use change are still surfacing, and the water management challenges we’re tackling are becoming increasingly complex. Science and innovation, along with compromise and investment from all sectors, will be crucial to securing clean, reliable freshwater in the long term,” he said.

Council’s water work this year includes helping landowners to pinpoint and treat problem E.coli bacteria sources, trial nutrient budgeting methods, and to fence and plant an additional 101km of waterway margins throughout the region. Farm animals are already excluded from more than 75 percent of the region’s waterways.

Investment is also being channelled into science and computerised modelling work that will be used alongside input from local councils, iwi, community groups and industry stakeholders to set new catchment-specific water management rules and methods under the Regional Water and Land Plan. Public consultation on proposed plan changes for the Kaituna Maketū, Pongakawa Waitahanui and Rangitāiki catchments will start in 2018.

At 155km long, the Rangitāiki River is the region’s longest river. The regional council is working in partnership with the Rangitāiki River Forum to protect and restore tuna (eel) habitat and, with funding assistance from Ministry for the Environment, restoring 206ha of wetlands, in the Rangitāiki River catchment.

Work is also planned to restore 20 percent of the Kaituna River’s freshwater flow back into Te Awa o Ngatoroirangi/Maketū Estuary and recreate 20 hectares of wetlands. The project aims to restore the health and mauri of the estuary that has suffered since the river was diverted away in 1956.

Around Tauranga Moana, 16 sub-catchment action plans are being delivered to improve water quality, in partnership with iwi and local councils. More than 90 percent of waterway margins that drain into the Tauranga Harbour are now protected from stock access.

Water quality improvements for the Rotorua Lakes are also being targeted. An online system to track nutrient discharges is being built and Rotorua farmers are being assisted to put nutrient management plans and resource consents in place under proposed new nutrient management rules (Plan Change 10) to improve water quality in Lake Rotorua.

The online tool will complement the regional council’s work on in-water treatment trials, weed removal and voluntary incentives that promote low nitrogen land-use, such as forestry and alternative cropping, to deliver further water quality improvements under the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Programme.

Click here for more information about the regional council’s work to care for water.