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Paul Smith

Catchment Management Lead

Paul profile

I grew up on a dairy farm in the Hauraki Plains – that was our playground. We would swim in the Karangahake Gorge’s streams and waterfalls but always knew that after 3pm the water could become green from effluent.  Things have changed significantly since then, but that’s from an effluent perspective. Land use has intensified. Nutrient levels have continued to increase and create other issues.

I’ve been in catchment management for about 10 years. We give information and advice around riparian management and soil conservation. We give it to anyone who wants to work with us – school groups, community groups, individuals, lifestyle blocks – but for the most part our work tends to be focused on the agricultural catchments.

Ultimately, we are trying to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrients getting in the waterways. Keep the soil on the land and not in the water. But the other side is managing that land to be as productive as possible.

We have incentives, such has paying 35 per cent towards materials and labour for fencing and planting, but that’s targeted at areas where we want work to happen. Most of the people want to make a difference but don’t know the first steps to take. We help with guidance and project planning to get them to where they want to be.

We go back to the sites and they are fenced and planted. It looks a picture, which is good. But do we see the benefits? It’s a bit more complex than just looking at it. It may assist with sediment, but not nutrients. Someone upstream might be doing something else that sends it their way. The best results are when we can focus on a catchment and get heaps of people involved.

We have a reliance on that water, it is what New Zealand is. Playing in the rivers and streams, it is what we did, it’s part of our landscape.

But it’s more than just water quality. It’s also about ecology and the flow on of effects into harbours and the coastal environment.