Gisborne Herald - Farmers need support to improve water quality

GOOD publicity, collaboration and support are vital for farmer involvement in cleaning up waterways, a report on the Rere water quality project has found.

The Wharekopae River Water Quality Enhancement Project involves all 21 farms in the river’s upper catchment, which have completed farm environment plans and do regular water monitoring.

It began in 2015 when Gisborne District Council and Beef and Lamb New Zealand collaborated with Rere farmers to improve water quality in the river, which runs through the world-famous Rere Falls and Rockslide, to a swimmable standard.

Both sites are popular swimming and tourist destinations, although there are permanent signs warning people of health risks due to E.coli contamination from sheep and cattle.

The Ministry for the Environment commissioned a report, the Rere Story, to investigate the high levels of farmer engagement, in order to guide similar projects around the country.

Social researcher Rachael Trotman said the farmers involved all knew how special the river was to the community and wanted to improve the water quality, but often lacked the resources and funding to do so.

“All farmers I know want to protect the environment, but we run a business,” one farmer involved said.

“Sheep and beef farming hasn’t been as profitable as dairy. We haven’t been able to invest in environmental measures.

“We need help – funding to plant and fence and to do water reticulation.”

Ms Trotman said part of the success of the project was supporting farmers in not only identifying environmental problems and solutions, but then assisting with implementing those ideas.

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