Scoop - Water partnership approach paying off in Manawatu-Whanganui

Originally published February 16, 2018

There’s now good evidence that the significant amounts of money and energy invested by farmers and the wider community in water quality improvement projects in Manawatū-Whanganui is making a difference.

Federated Farmers Manawatū - Rangitikei President Richard Morrison has welcomed the findings of an independent report commissioned by Horizons Regional Council and the Ministry for the Environment. The study, conducted by LWP Ltd and reviewed by NIWA and StatsNZ, showed strong statistical evidence of reductions in sediment (suspended sediment, water clarity, and turbidity), as well as E. coli, in local waterways.

The report’s leader author, Dr Ton Snelder, said modelling showed there has been a 5 to 8 per cent improvement in ‘swimmability’ in the region in the decade ending in 2016.

Mr Morrison said it was notable the improvements had been driven not so much by regulation, but from the council working side by side with farmers and others on practical solutions, tailored to each catchment, and informed by science.

"We also point out that the gains have come at a time when the council was pursuing the course it had set itself under One Plan, and prior to it all being thrown into uncertainty by the Environmental Defence Society and Fish & Game legal challenge."

One of the longer-term targeted interventions is the Horizons’ Sustainable Lane Use Initiative (SLUI), which was launched in 2004 and is funded by central government, landowners and ratepayers, with assistance from the Ministry of Primary Industries.

The initiative includes measures such as tree planting and ‘retiring’ erosion prone land by fencing it off and letting it revert to shrub or native forest.

The Horizons council reported this week that there are now 683 Whole Farm Plans, covering over 500,000 hectares. Farmers can access advice on ‘best’ farm practices and so far 14 million trees have been planted and over 570,000 metres of waterways have been fenced.

This doesn’t include similar investment and enhancements pursued under the Manawatū River Leaders and Lake Horowhenua Accords.

Farmers - as much as anyone else - realise there is a long way to go before we can say were are on top of our waterway problems," Mr Morrison said.

"But now we have independent confirmation of the effectiveness of One Plan’s approach, and how working together on targeted, prioritised, science-informed projects are getting the water quality indicators moving in the right direction across the region.

"Let’s spend our money and time on those, not legal action and inflexible regulations."