Media Release 22 March

Report on rivers sets benchmark for future improvement

A milestone whole of catchment Report Card for the Waikato and Waipa rivers has been released by the Waikato River Authority giving the catchment an anticipated low rating for its wellbeing.

The Report Card was produced by NIWA, Diffuse Sources Ltd and the Waikato Raupatu River Trust on behalf of the Authority. The release of the Report Card coincides with the Authority’s first ever Five Year Report to the Crown and river iwi on its effectiveness in ensuring progress in cleaning up the Waikato and Waipa rivers.

The whole of catchment Report Card grade is a C+ and scores across eight different indicators; Water Quality, Water Security, Economy, Kai, Ecological Integrity, Experience, Effort and Sites of Significance.  The Report Card score is not a pass with a C grade regarded as a low rating meaning overall the standard of river catchment falls short of the expectations of the vision and strategy for a healthy Waikato River.

Co-chairs of the Waikato River Authority, Tukoroirangi Morgan and Hon John Luxton say the Report Card is the first comprehensive assessment of the catchment that produces a summarised score and sets the benchmark for future improvement.

“We’ve always known there is a big task ahead to clean-up the rivers and the Report Card gives a picture of where the most improvement is needed,” says Mr Luxton.

Mr Morgan says there is definitely more work to be done. “My iwi, Waikato-Tainui, has for more many years felt the river was in poor shape as it moves through our tribal area. The Report Card acknowledges this, but it is also concerning to see areas in the upper catchment thought to be pristine, also reflecting a drop in their quality,” he says. Mr Morgan says the work of the Authority is critical in bringing together the many groups required to turn around and restore the health and wellbeing of the catchment for all its communities.

The Report Card grades in the upper catchment are not finalised and subject to further discussions with river iwi in those areas. Iwi chairs Vanessa Eparaima (Raukawa), Roger Pikia (Te Arawa River Iwi Trust) and John Bishara (Tuwharetoa) say while the scores are not finalised they continue to support the important mahi and the work of those further downstream.

Waikato-Tainui CEO Parekawhia McLean says the Report Card

builds upon the co-management approach of the Waikato River Settlement by getting iwi and the community involved in contributing their experiences and information alongside science.

“We are pleased to see the Report Card capture the collective wisdom and aspirations of iwi and the entire region to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for now and into the future,” she says

NIWA’s Chief Scientist for Freshwater and Estuaries, Dr John Quinn, who led the Report Card project, says being able to assess catchments holistically is becoming best practice internationally, and it is anticipated the process for evaluating the Waikato and Waipa rivers will create a benchmark and a focus for future restoration. He says the Report Card is internationally unique in being underpinned by indigenous and community values, rather than purely science driven.  He says the Report Card had ongoing input from an iwi advisory group and the Waikato Regional Council’s extensive environmental and social databases were key information sources, as well as over 30 subject experts from 10 organisations.

Waikato Regional Council chairperson Paula Southgate says the Report Card underlines how important it is for Waikato Regional Council to keep co-operating closely with the Authority, river iwi, stakeholders and the wider community on achieving the Vision and Strategy for the Waikato and Waipa rivers. “These waterways are precious taonga that we are working to protect through the council and iwi-led Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project. That’s due to produce a proposed regional plan change for the rivers shortly and, whatever measures are settled on, co-operation between all the parties will be a key to implementing them effectively.”

 The Report Card release and the presentation of the Waikato River Authority’s inaugural Five Year Report was hosted by Waikato-Tainui at the College for Research and Development at Hopuhopu. Hon Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, received the Five Year Report on behalf of the Crown.