Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor made the announcement at Ophir Hall close to the Historic Ophir Bridge over the Manuherekia River.
“Working with the community, we are fulfilling the Government’s promise to stop the degradation of our waterways, make measurable improvements within five years and return them to health in a generation,” Parker said.
Parker says the Manuherekia catchment is vitally important to the people of Central Otago.
“The Manuherekia rises in the Hawkdun ranges and flows through some of New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes that inspired the paintings of Grahame Sydney and the poems of Brian Turner,” Parker said.
“It provides water for farming, viticulture and horticulture. It is also a popular place for people to swim, kayak and fish.
“However, the river is under pressure, with water quality declining and over-allocation of water reducing the minimum flow needed for ecological processes, such as providing habitat for wildlife, and for recreational use.”
The At-Risk Catchment programme provides $12 million over four years, including to the three exemplar catchments that have been announced: Kaipara Moana, Te Hoiere/Pelorus and now, the Manuherekia.
The Government is working with the Central Otago community, along with Treaty partner Ngāi Tahu, to lead the work to help improve the health of the river. This work complements the Government’s Essential Freshwater plan.
“We will work with farmers and others in the community to help understand what can make the greatest difference and then what interventions to take. The lessons learned from exemplar catchments like Manuherekia can then be passed onto others,” Parker said
The plan will give councils national direction on freshwater standards, put in place measures to improve land use, such as controlling poor winter grazing practices, and give guidance on the preservation of highly productive land and urban development.
Two initial projects are being developed that will provide a starting point for the work that needs to be done by the community.
This includes a 15 kilometre riparian planting, fencing and wetland restoration project in Thomson’s Creek and an assessment of the fish passage and barriers for native galaxiids.
The second project will improve the knowledge of the mahinga kai and biodiversity values in the catchment to support further restoration work that will use complementary innovative and traditional technologies.
“We are continuing to roll out our plan to clean up waterways. What we learn with Manuherekia will add to the knowledge gained from the Kaipara and Pelorus catchments,” Parker said.
“This is about everyone coming together to stop the degradation and undo the damage of the past.
“Every New Zealander should be able to go down to our local river in summer for a swim and put our head under without getting sick.”