Water quality project gets over $1 million

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Protecting the water quality of Lake Wanaka has been given a boost.

The Government has granted the Wanaka Catchment Group more than $1 million for a threeyear water monitoring project.

The funding comes from the Freshwater Improvement Fund, part of the Government’s $1.245 billion Jobs for Nature package.

Group chairman Grant Ruddenklau said farmers in the Wanaka catchment had funded their own activities during the past three years and would also contribute to the $1.9 million project.

‘‘Our primary focus was on educating our group, learning more about how farming affects water and then implementing actions on farm though the use of our environmental plans.’’

The group had worked with the Otago Regional Council sampling water quality at locations throughout the catchment.

This helped prioritise locations where environmental actions would benefit the quality of water flowing to the lake, he said.

Environmental Consultant Chris Arbuckle said the finer details of the project would be worked through over the next few months.

The group comprised 15 out of 17 large farm properties greater than 50ha as well as Rippon Vineyard, meaning more than 90% of the farmed catchment by area was being managed under one consistent environmental plan.

‘‘The farmers and others I have worked with over the past few years in Wanaka have welcomed learning about environmental issues and adopting actions on farms.’’

Two other farms in the region were now part of a Lake Hawea catchment group, he said.
Funding would help fence over 40km of waterways and plant tens of thousands of native riparian plants at priority sites throughout the catchment.

The funding would also support an environmental education project where the group would work closely with local iwi and schools to build matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) into community understanding of the local environment and farming.

Te Puna o Mata-au representative Shirley Walthew said it was looking forward to working with the group to advance actions ‘‘that not only protect our water for the future but highlight the importance of using cultural values when telling a story about our waterways’’.

Local Maori education leader Tania Brett would help ensure wider cultural benefits gained from environmental actions at sites were measured through time by helping plan projects within schools.

Regional council chairman Andrew Noone said the Wanaka Catchment Group had shown a great deal of self-initiative over the past few years to implement the intent of the region’s water policy.

‘‘This project has been driven by farmers who are responding proactively to what their community holds dear, excellent water quality and the protection of a lake with immense intrinsic value,’’ he said.

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