If New Zealand can't get its environmental problems under control, who can. No one, said Minister for the Environment David Parker at an informal meeting in Katikati last Wednesday.
"It makes my spine tingle to say that. It turns it into a moral duty to overcome these problems — if we can't the world won't," he said.
The Minister was visiting to see what's happening on the ground to protect and restore rivers, lakes and wetlands. The visit to Pukekauri Farm in Lund Road coincided with World Environment Day, with an update on the Parore Project in the Te Mania catchment.
Farm co-owners, Rick and John Burke presented an overview of the environmental work redesigning Pukekauri farm.
Project Parore, a community-led group in the Te Mania catchment has initiated an environmental plan to manage the sub-catchment, its contaminants and sediment loading, looking ahead 50 years. They hope to bring back the parore [black bream fish] into the Tauranga Harbour.
John is leading the project with Karen Smylie, Dr Peter Maddison and Lawrie Donald, from the Uretara Estuary Managers and Tiki Bluegum representing iwi from Tamawhariua.
Rick said parore were abundant in Tauranga harbour in the 70s and 80s but have been decimated due to sea lettuce.
"Our target is to restore the parore to the state they were in the 60s and 70s."
Katikati Community Board member Jenny Hobbs said her grandparents came in the 1950s.
"We ate scallops, oysters, parore and flounder, they were in abundance off our boundary in the harbour. All have gone in one generation."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council is pushing the from the bottom end, Rick said. The plan could potentially be applied as a blueprint across all 17 catchments feeding into Tauranga Harbour.
Rick said part of the project involved environmental forensics with support from Eurofins BOP Ltd, and signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with key industry groups — Beef+Lamb, Dairy NZ, Zespri and NZ Avocado.
Tiki Bluegum said the big problem was in the estuaries.
"As a child growing up we'd see fish all the time. About this time there used to be hundreds of herrings, I haven't seen any for the last 15 years. To get that back would be awesome."
John said they want the project to be sustainable. They have Ministry for the Environment funding through the Uretara Estuary Managers group, $500,000 over the next five years of base funding.
Parker said help is on the way.
"In the latest budget we've got $229m over four years, most of which comes through MPI to assist these farm environment plans. It also includes a regulatory package. I'm determined the money doesn't flow without the regulatory package," he said.
The Minister planted a couple of swamp maire trees. He said he was very impressed with how the whole community is involved with Project Parore and that there is a solid plan. He felt the project was a good example that could be useful for other catchment groups and has asked MfE to look at ways to expand community-led action.
"The Ministry is considering how to identify the elements that have made projects like Parore a success, and share those with other groups in other catchments around the country." Parker would like to return to check on progress — and the swamp Maire tree.
Parore Project members Karen Smillie, Dr Peter Maddison, Braden Rowson and John Burke at the first planting site of a swamp maire.
Environment Minister David Parker plants a swamp maire tree with farm owners, John Burke left and Rick Burke.