The newly formed Western Whanganui Stream Catchments collective want to work towards rates remissions for any land set aside for riparian planting.
Chairman George Matthews said the group's "span" started at the Omapu stream and ended at the Ototoka stream, north of Kai Iwi.
The group met for just the third time this week.
"Our goal is to bring people together and work collectively with the regional council and the community to ensure the protection of local catchment areas for future generations," Matthews said.
"There are five streams in our reach, and it has been decided that they will be divided into three catchment groups.
"In principle, there will be one legal structure over the whole lot, with an administrator or coordinator employed to work on things like funding submissions and organising speakers and field days to see how 'Joe Blow' is building a silt trap or planting native trees."
That group in turn would be able to communicate with much larger catchment groups such as the Rangitikei or the Manawatu, Matthews said.
"One issue is creating rate remission status over any land set aside for riparian planting, to encourage cockies [dairy farmers] to do it.
"Horizons can offer 50 per cent subsidies towards the planting of trees near waterways, but they'll be charging rates on that land for the next 100 years.
"At the end of the day, a cockie has got to pay his bills, and it'll be the primary sector that pulls us out of this depression we're in."
Group spokesman Dave Cotton said the initiative had to be "farmer-led but community-driven".
"Catchment groups like this are great because they deal with particular issues in particular areas, rather than just having a general policy.
"The people that have agreed to be on this committee have a broad range of skills, whether they be from science backgrounds, actual landowners, or people involved with iwi issues."
Cotton said a lot of the things people could do to help protect waterways didn't require a lot of money.
"Whether it be riparian planting or how people are applying fertiliser and grazing off their winter crops, it's about making sure people are educated.
"Even little things like that can make a huge difference to the environment."
The idea of "extractive agriculture" needed to be replaced with sustainable and environmentally conscious farming, Matthews said, something that the younger generation of farmers was embracing more and more.
"For the last 150 years this country was hell bent on growing grass, and we've done a bloody good job.
"Our ancestors believed that the waterways would look after themselves, but now we've seen that much of the water that's flowing into the Tasman Sea is polluted."
Matthews said he hoped the Whanganui District Council would be present at the group's next meeting.
"The WDC is very good at fixing potholes and roads and building iconic children's playgrounds, but they also own land out here that adjoins two big streams and they have a role to play.
"Our little group can help them with riparian planting, fencing, and stock exclusion.
"Hopefully they'll come into the room because it's about all walking down this road together."
Matthews said the group was aiming to hold meetings once a month.