The effort from the Taranaki community to improve freshwater health has been recognised by a national award.

The 25-year voluntary work by farmers, iwi, schools and community groups to fence and plant waterways, has helped achieve some of the best results in Taranaki's river and stream health in two decades.

The work has earned the 2019 Excellence Award for Environmental Well-Being from Local Government New Zealand.

"This belongs to our community," Taranaki Regional Council Chair David MacLeod said as he accepted the award in Wellington on Monday July 8.

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David says thousands of people have invested much sweat, money and time into fencing and planting rivers and streams on private land around Mount Taranaki since 1993.

The voluntary scheme keeps stock out of waterways, cuts down effluent and nutrient run-off and shades stream water to encourage native biodiversity.

More than 15,400km of Taranaki stream banks - about the length of New Zealand's coastline - are covered under the voluntary programme.

NIWA scientists say it's likely one of the largest and longest-running restorative freshwater projects in the world.

The figures are:
$128 million programme – 70 per cent funded by landowners.
5.6 million native plants.
2,500 properties with a riparian plan including all dairy farmers.
13,207km of fencing on stream banks.
6,000ha of native habitat protected.

"This award highlights the power of Taranaki's community and what can be achieved when people are supported and work together," David says.

An independent NIWA report in 2018 found that Taranaki's riparian protection work to date has contributed to improved freshwater health and a reduction in bacteria levels.

David says there are encouraging results year after year.

"Farmers are carrying out the massive project without subsidies. We've provided plenty of technical assistance and advice – but they've funded all the planting and fencing.

"They've done this so voluntarily. These results haven't been achieved by a Council rule or the Resource Management Act. They've been achieved because our community knows it's the right thing to do."

Long-term monitoring shows Taranaki's ecological freshwater health is the best it's been in 23 years.

"The results speak for themselves," Mr MacLeod says.

■ Show water health is improving across many freshwater indicators. The latest results are at www.trc.govt.nz/healthy-waterways-report-2018/