Regional Forum release - Vast improvements to freshwater possible
A report which the authors are hoping will result in vast improvements to the region’s freshwater was presented to Environment Southland at today’s council meeting.
Achieving the Community's Aspirations for Freshwater is the result of more than three years’ work by the Southland Regional Forum. The forum, a community-based group, has been working with science and other specialist advisors to plan measures they believe will address the gap between where the region’s freshwater is now and where it should be.
Regional Forum chair Fiona Smith says, “We’re proud of the result which provides a new approach for how Southlanders view and relate to freshwater.”
“The forum focused on the hauora [healthy resilience] and mana [respect] of our land and water for generations to come. Some people have been more attuned to the risks to our freshwater and have responded as best they can. But now the whole community needs to be actively engaged in improving our freshwater because we’re all affected.
“The gap between where we should be and where we are now means focused collective action is required. Now is the time to make these things happen,” Fiona Smith said.
The process had been a journey of learning for Fiona, and she knows other forum members have also had profound shifts in their thinking.
“Forum members have given hundreds of hours to this process because we all believed it was the right thing to do. Southland has a huge challenge that we need to do something about now if we are to have any hope of getting our freshwater quality back, returning Te Mana o te Wai,” Fiona Smith says.
In developing their recommendations, the Regional Forum has paid particular attention to partnership approaches and integrated catchment management, the role of wetlands, repurposing land for greater ecological benefit, and industrial and urban water management. The forum has also considered how their package of advice aligns with climate change and biodiversity outcomes.
“We have worked our way through the huge challenges this project set us, and we firmly believe what we’re recommending will give our children, grandchildren and future generations the freshwater they deserve.
Southland’s freshwater challenges include extensive loss of wetlands impacting on biodiversity and hydrology; an excess of sediment, pathogens and nutrient inputs in some rivers, lakes and estuaries – some putting human health at risk, and issues with river flows affecting water quality.
“Now it’s over to Environment Southland and Te Ao Marama Inc to lead the region into a better future with freshwater that we can become proud of.”
The report will help with the development of the first plan change to the Southland Water and Land Plan, known as Plan Change Tuatahi, which will include limits.
To read the report, visit the Regional Forum webpage – www.es.govt.nz/regional-forum