The group leading the charge to clean up Te Waihī estuary in the Bay of Plenty will be hosting a farm advisory meeting that will provide a forum for discussion and ideas on how to work together to revitalise the catchment.
Wai Kōkopu, made up of tangata whenua, landowners, environmental care groups, Māori
agribusiness, residents and ratepayers, says it is committed to replenishing and revitalising the health of the estuary between Maketu and Pukehina.
The estuary was fed by waterways in sub-catchments that include Pongakawa, Wharere and Kaikōkopu.
Project manager for the Wai Kōkopu programme Alison Dewes said it was timely to call the meeting to update the agri sector on what had been done since work started six months ago, what came next, and to also garner ideas for improvement from those active in the sector.
Dewes and the Wai Kōkopu project team hoped as many agribusiness professionals as possible would attend, and that included vets, fertiliser suppliers and spreaders, farmers, orchardists, foresters, regional farm advisors and consultants.
"We want people to understand how our present and recent activity on the land affects the water. I know some in the sector are already working hard on the land to improve their practices, but we still have a long way to go."
The state of Te Waihī catchment and estuary is currently one of the worst in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The government saw fit to provide restoration funding for the catchment as part of its $20 million investment in catchment restoration projects.
The Waihī project focused on environmental initiatives at farm, sub-catchment and catchment levels, from the forests to the sea.
The project had an overarching objective of improving water quality in the Waihī catchment waterways which in turn would contribute towards revitalising the estuary.
Wai Kōkopu chairperson and Pongakawa mixed enterprise farmer Andre Hickson said common practice in the sector had been to run profit and output driven systems that have been developed over many years, but that needs to change.
"Now, with an environmental focus we really do need to scrutinise our farm system recipes and the fundamental drivers. In this project we rely on sound local data to guide us, with good science, along with water and soil data informing us," Hickson said.
Water quality was everybody's problem, and by fostering awareness and shared
responsibility for the health of Te Waihī estuary, they hoped to influence better practices, decisions and outcomes for the land, water, biodiversity and community within the catchment, Dewes said.
"We want to restore the mana back to the whenua, and this will involve a combination of western science and mātauranga."
By 2024 all farm plans would have to give effect to Te Mana o te Wai, which put the health of the water and the ecosystem and people first, not last, Dewes said.
"This is a good first step."
Part of Dewes' brief was to engage with industry, including Zespri and Fonterra, which she was doing.
Wai Kōkopu members were already working with a range of farmers from across the catchment on their farm plans, and doing regular soil and water monitoring and data collection.
Some of their early findings will be discussed at the May meeting.
• The farm advisory meeting takes place at Pongakawa Hall on Wednesday May 19 from 2.30pm to 5.30pm followed by light refreshments.