Project Parore, an initiative to protect native flora, fauna, waterways and landscapes alongside sustainable commercial and residential land use, is planning to expand to include eight catchments in the northern Tauranga Harbour.
Three local hapu, centred on Otawhiwhi, have indicated their desire to be involved in the initiative. The restoration of the mana of the land and the mauri of the streams is strongly supported.
"We have also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with sector groups including Beef+Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ, Zespri and NZ Avocado, which represent the major commercial land users in the rohe," says Project Parore steering group member John Burke.
"The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is also a party to the MOU making it the first of its kind in New Zealand where the community, sector groups and regional council are working together in the spirit of collaboration and partnership towards achieving the vision and desired objectives of Project Parore."
Funding for the project was initially sourced by Uretara Estuary Managers Inc (UEM) from the Ministry for Environment Freshwater Improvement Fund to develop an "all issues" Catchment Management Plan (CMP) initiative.
The original deed from the MFE set out objectives which included "a freshwater CMP is developed for Te Mania Stream Catchment through a collaborative process with key stakeholders".
In developing the pilot community-led project, Lawrie Donald, chairman of UEM and Project Parore member, says the catchment was monitored "from top to bottom to establish what is there, from people to small creepy crawlies. We have found new species, birds such as rifleman that are very uncommon in most of the Kaimai, freshwater mussels, long-tail bats and other interesting and endangered species.
"Other notable milestones include the remediation of impediments to fish passage (mainly whitebait) on Te Mania, Te Rereatukahia, Uretara and Tahawai streams. Hundreds of metres of stream riparian retirement have been established, as well as assistance with the establishment of wetlands in Te Mania catchment."
Community engagement in Te Mania catchment was completed in May last year. This drew in landowners, residents, local interest groups and the wider community to initiate action on freshwater quality and biodiversity enhancement.
Delays in taking the next step have been due to expansion considerations, raising further funding and understanding the Government's Healthy Waterways requirements.
The project has garnered significant support from Bay Trust for organisational funding. Thanks to this, Project Parore is preparing to focus on all the waterways which flow into the Northern Tauranga Harbour from the Aongatete, Waitekohe, Te Rereatukahia, Uretara, Tahawai, Tuapiro and Waiau river and stream catchments.
The restoration of numbers of the once abundant native parore fish will be one of the measures of success for the entire project. To bring back the parore, work must begin on improving the environment from high in the Kaimai Ranges where waterways arise and all the way to the coast.
Project Parore member and sheep and beef farmer in Te Mania catchment Rick Burke says being involved in the project will help farmers and orchardists meet new government Essential Fresh Water requirements which will include implementing farm environmental plans.
These plans will highlight farm areas needing attention in terms of leaching and sediment loss.
"There's a freight train of regulations coming our way, but landowners in Te Mania catchment have proved it is possible to meet and even exceed those requirements while being environmentally and economically sustainable," says Rick.
Project Parore is planning a number of public events in coming months where members will be able to assist landowners and lifestyle block owners with their plans.