Several pieces of the $13.3 million Whakamana te Waituna programme are taking shape as part of the five-year catchment management programme in and around the internationally renowned lagoon.
The partnership between Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Te Rūnanga o Awarua, Environment Southland, Department of Conservation (DOC), Fonterra, Living Water and the Southland District Council, aims to improve water quality and biodiversity, support cultural aspirations and support sustainable farming in the catchment.
Whakamana te Waituna co-chairs Lloyd McCallum and Dean Whaanga said they were looking forward to a public drop-in session to update progress, at the Gorge Road Country Club on November 22, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
McCallum said a lot of work from the Waituna community and the respective agencies under the Waituna Partners banner had made a great start to improving freshwater management in the catchment – and the Whakamana te Waituna work programme was continuing that momentum.
“We’re keen to let people know what’s happening in the Waituna catchment, and the drop-in session will be a great opportunity for them to get an update and ask questions,” he said.
Whaanga said people would be invited to share ideas on Waituna Creek transformation work – one of the key projects underway.
“Waituna Creek is the main tributary of the lagoon and we’d love to hear what people value and would like to see happen to the creek and its surroundings.”
Work already underway at the creek includes riparian planting and in-water trials designed to increase channels, meander, pools and riffles – all vital components for improving water quality and in-creek habitat.
Other work under the Whakamana te Waituna umbrella this month will include Fonterra providing farmers in the upper Waituna catchment with farm environment plans as part of an ongoing focussed approach in this catchment.
Fonterra sustainable dairy advisor Cain Duncan said the plans, which used the most up to date science from the Waituna catchment, were vital tools to assist sustainability and farming operations.
Waituna dairy farmers Tony and Raewyn van Gool are also welcoming the public on to their farm on November 11 as part of Fonterra’s Nationwide ‘Open Gates’ initiative.
With native bush pockets throughout the farm and natural wetlands, their farm is part of the Living Water Programme, a national partnership between Fonterra and DOC to improve water quality in five key New Zealand catchments.
McCallum said other projects under the Whakamana te Waituna banner, including a cultural assessment of the lagoon and catchment, pest management, and contaminant intervention design work were also progressing as the planning phase transitioned into work on the ground.
The lagoon, which was opened to the sea on May 30, had closed back up in mid-October. This was a positive indication for ruppia growth as summer approached, as ruppia helped maintain the biological diversity of the lagoon, he said.
The five-year programme is funded through partner contributions and a $6 million grant received from the Freshwater Improvement Fund, which is administered by the Ministry for the Environment.
The significance of the indigenous flora and fauna of Waituna Lagoon and the surrounding wetland was given special recognition in 1976 as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.