During Parliament’s winter recess I was able to visit bustling Queenstown and spend a day with Tiaki Maniototo Project Group.

It was a magnificent day out on the scroll plain — a ‘‘meander system’’ — speaking with farmers, mana whenua, Department of Conservation, Central Otago District councillors and staff and Otago Regional Council, Fish & Game, and Federated Farmers about doing the best for this unique environment.

The catchment group Upper Taieri Wai has established the Tiaki Maniototo Project to improve freshwater quality, ecosystem values, and biodiversity.

Jobs for Nature funding of $4.55 million over five years has been secured to undertake ambitious planting of 90,000 native plants, pest control, monitor water quality, and provide fencing.

There is also substantial ‘‘in-kind’’ work from other agencies and farmers increasing the total budget to about $6 million. More importantly, there is a large group of committed locals who love the scroll plain and the Maniatoto, and I thank them for showing me around.

The Taieri River is the fourth›longest river in Aotearoa and in its upper reaches has an unusual, and very beautiful, hydrological form.

Within the floodplain, and after rain events, wetlands, meanders, oxbows, old braids, backwaters, and cut›offs are formed. As a result there is a reduction of the pace of water moving downstream, which mitigates flooding.

Much of the native flora has been removed but it seems likely that there would have historically been totara, tussock, kowhai, and ti kouka (cabbage tree) in the area.

The scroll plain was also a significant Mahika kai area for mana whenua.

I am a fan of kahurumanu.co. nz/atlas which gives the Kai Tahu names for land and water forms throughout the takiwa including the Maniatoto plain; worth a look because it gives an indication of how this area was used for generations.

Pest and weed management is a huge issue for Tiaki Maniototo.

There is an enormous problem with geese and the resultant defecation into the river causing high E. coli levels.

And the crack willow trees interfere with the hydrology by channelling flows and outcompete native flora.

Tiaki Maniototo is working to assist farmers to identify and fix challenges (including regulatory) that would lead to increasing numbers of willows and geese.

On a different note, I hope that everyone who earns under $70,000 a year, is aged 18 or over, and is ineligible for the winter energy payment has received their August 1 cost of living payment.

If IRD does not have your bank account number then the payment ($350 split into three payments) cannot be made until you inform IRD of your bank account details — you can call IRD on 0800 473 777 or go to ird.govt.nz/cost›of›living› payment