The commitment of the Rere farming community to improving the water quality of the Wharekopae River has attracted attention from the Ministry for the Environment.
For the past year, the Rere community have been working together with Council, MFE and NZ Beef and Lamb on a project to enhance water quality at Rere Falls and Rockslide.
In a report to Council’s environmental policy and regulatory committee this week, shared services science manager Dennis Crone says these land owners are leading the way in Farm Environment planning.
“The upper Wharekopae will be the first catchment in the Gisborne region and possibly the North Island with every farm having completed a plan.”
Through Farm Environment Plans, farmers assess their current operations and identify areas where they can make improvements which are beneficial both environmentally and economically.
They can then apply to Council for funding assistance to implement improvements, helping to reduce contaminants from farms reaching waterways.
Water and coastal resources officer Alice Trevelyan knows first-hand every farm owner is invested in improving the water quality, even though not all of them are required to produce environment plans or implement mitigation measures under the rules in the Regional Freshwater Plan.
“They’re doing some amazing and innovative work – collecting water samples, fencing of water ways, planting riparian zones and installing water reticulation systems.”
“We’re interested to find out what have been the drivers for farmers and identify how the experience has been beneficial to them, both environmentally and economically.”
MFE have provided an additional $40,000 to research the change that has happened socially in the community. The research, to be completed in June, would give insight into how to successfully adapt a model for other catchments.
“Water quality at the rockslide and falls is often below the acceptable level for swimming and agricultural practices are often assumed by the wider community as being the sole cause. However, elevated E.coli levels can be also attributed to human contact, birds and to pests such a wild goats.”
The mayor and councillors went to Rere on a site visit last week where staff outlined the progress the enhancements had made on water quality up stream of the falls.
Mayor Meng Foon says it is a great collaborative project which benefits everyone into the future.
“I wish to acknowledge our staff, the upstream farmers, industry partners and the ministry for their support. There is much more work to do and we welcome the current funding to support the great work.”
Ms. Trevelyan says the community share a common goal of wanting future generations to be able to swim in the river, and are working hard to see this happen.
In the next 2 months fecal tracking tests will be done to determine the source of E.coli at multiple locations along the river to provide further insight into E.coli levels in the catchment.