Heavyweights line up to protect the Waikato River
A ground-breaking collaboration between dairy industry body DairyNZ, the Waikato River Authority and Waikato Regional Council is lining up to better protect and restore the Waikato River.
Their Waikato River Restoration Strategy project was launched near Hamilton today by Environment Minister Nick Smith. It’s believed to be the first collaborative initiative of its type involving such organisations in the country and will run till 2017
The Authority and DairyNZ are contributing $200,000 each in direct costs with the regional council contributing $75,000. Other costs will be met by significant in-kind support, such as staff time, from DairyNZ and the council.
The three organisations involved in the strategy have all put major resources into helping protect and restore the river in recent years. For example:
- The Waikato River Authority has completed four funding rounds for river clean up initiatives and has allocated $22 million to more than 140 projects.
- DairyNZ has recently led a $2.3 million project to develop more than 600 sustainable milk plans in the upper Waikato River catchment around Karapiro, resulting in more than 4700 individual on-farm actions to help keep farm nutrients out of waterways and protect the environment. Another $1.3 million of dairy farmers’ levy funds are now being invested in three further Waikato initiatives, including 850 sustainable milk plans for the Waipā area, a wetlands project and the river restoration strategy announced today.
- Since 2002, Waikato Regional Council has provided just under $3.3 million towards new riparian fencing and planting, as well as land retirement, in the Waikato and Waipā rivers catchments. It has also been involved in a wide range of other river protection work, including the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai plan change project.
A key aim of the new Waikato River Restoration Strategy will be to ensure that this combined work – plus the work of other agencies – is carried out as efficiently as possible, whilst obtaining maximum benefit by ensuring it is integrated and co-ordinated.
The strategy will help guide investment decisions for improving the health of the Waikato River over the next five to 15 years. It is also designed to guide the work of other stakeholders committed to improving the health and well-being of the river. The strategy will be one of the key tools for delivering on the Vision and Strategy for a restored and protected Waikato River and its catchments.
A key supporting action has been the creation of a Waikato River Restoration Forum, involving the three strategy partners as well as all Waikato River Iwi, the Department of Conservation, Fonterra, Genesis Energy and Mighty River Power, along with local councils. The forum is chaired by the Authority’s CEO Bob Penter, and will offer advice and input into the preparation of the strategy.
“Our aim is to maximise opportunities to realise the vision for a healthy Waikato River that sustains abundant life and prosperous communities,” said Authority co-chair Tukoroirangi Morgan.
“Those communities, in turn, are all responsible for restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, and all it embraces, for generations to come.”
DairyNZ chairman John Luxton, the other co-chair of the Authority, said the dairy sector was committed to playing its part in improving river health. “The development of this strategy will help guide all forum members to ensure the best approach to restoration is adopted. Farmers have been stepping up to do their bit and DairyNZ is supporting them.”
Waikato Regional Council chairperson Paula Southgate said the new strategy will be aligned with efforts to protect and restore the Waikato and Waipā rivers through the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project.
“The new project launched today is taking the spirit of collaboration over river health to new heights in the Waikato. It’s only by working closely together that we’ll truly protect the rivers in a way that supports the economy, our communities and our environment,” said Ms Southgate.