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Views align on rivers health

Issued by Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai
A ground-breaking collaboration designed to help protect the health of the Waikato and Waipa rivers has got off to a very encouraging start with signs that a wide range of sectors share similar values.

A Collaborative Stakeholder Group (CSG) – made up of sector representatives and people from the general community - is a key feature of the Healthy Rivers: Plan for Change/Wai Ora: He Rautaki Whakapaipai project.

Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora – a partnership involving Waikato Regional Council and iwi - is looking to develop a plan change to manage land-based activities contributing sediment, bacteria and nutrients to the rivers. The CSG will make recommendations to the council and iwi about that plan change.

At its second workshop this month, the CSG started looking at the values various industry sectors and the community hold for the Waikato and Waipa rivers and other water bodies in the river catchments.

“We were pleased to find that the diverse sectors on the CSG actually have much the same values and hopes for the rivers, and that these are also in line with those of the wider community,” said CSG chair Bill Wasley.

“The CSG has the challenging task of recommending solutions to help restore and protect the health of the rivers, so it’s promising that at the outset we basically all appreciate and want similar things.”

The workshop included presentations from CSG members on what the rivers mean to their sectors, and a presentation of a collation of Waikato Regional Council research reports into community-held values.

The report Community held values of rivers, lakes and streams in the Waikato and Waipa River catchments (seehttp://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/TR201331) found the following:

  • More than 80 per cent of respondents think it is important to be able to safely eat food from the river.
  • More than 70 per cent of respondents agree rivers and streams in the region are an important contributor to the region’s economy.
  • Two thirds of respondents take part in activities in and around waterways including walking, boating, swimming and fishing.

The report summarised existing research and new research was commissioned where necessary.

The CSG started looking at values in their second workshop this month as the National Policy Statement for Freshwater 2011 places a more explicit focus on identifying community-held values as the first step in policy development for freshwater management.

“Values” refers to the qualities, uses and potential uses that are important to people about water bodies, and what they want to see recognised in their ongoing management. The CSG will hear more about iwi values for the rivers and farming systems at their next workshop in June 2014.

Meanwhile, the CSG has started to consider how the public will be involved in Healthy Rivers/Wai Ora.

“We are seeking to understand what is important to everyone, what our responsibilities are and what people are thinking,” Mr Wasley said.

“Going forward we’ll be interested in hearing what people have to say, including their hopes and concerns.”

At this stage, it is envisaged there will be a period of intensive engagement from February to June 2015. Prior to that there will be a large stakeholder forum later in 2014, between September and November.

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