$2M-plus govt boost to north freshwater improvement welcomed

8 Aug 2017, 1:56 PM

News the government is to make a $2 million contribution to $4M of work to improve freshwater quality in the Northern Wairoa River and more than two dozen Northland dune lakes has been welcomed by the Northland Regional Council.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith today confirmed the government will make a $1.25M contribution to the river project and $782,975 to the dune lake work via the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund.

The Government has committed $100 million to the fund nationally over 10 years for larger projects designed to improve the quality and availability of water in lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and wetlands.  It focusses on water bodies in vulnerable catchments that are showing signs of stress, but which crucially have not yet reached a ‘tipping point’ when it becomes more expensive and more difficult to restore them to good health.

Northland Regional Council Chairman Bill Shepherd says the council (which is already planning to make a separate contribution of about $1.5M on behalf of its ratepayers) made the applications to the Freshwater Improvement Fund earlier this year.

“These projects demonstrate a strong degree of collaboration between our council, local iwi and our primary sector with a shared goal of improving freshwater, he says. “It’s fantastic to see central government also ‘coming to the party’ with significant contributions of its own to these two very worthwhile projects.”

Chairman Shepherd says while the funding arrangement will still need to be formalised over the next several months, today’s announcement means the Ministry joins other project funders, including the council, a Department of Conservation/Fonterra Living Waters partnership, Landcare Research and Reconnecting Northland.

The larger of the two initiatives funded today, the ‘Northern Wairoa Freshwater Improvement Project’, will see $2.5M spent in total over the next five years and is designed to reduce sediment and bacteria levels in the Northern Wairoa and its tributaries.  It involves working with landowners to implement sustainable land management practices.

The second project, ‘Northland Dune Lakes Strategic Water Quality Improvement’, will see a total of almost $1.6M spent over a similar length of time to improve more than two dozen of the region’s fragile dune lakes in the wider Aupouri and Pouto areas.

“Projects for these lakes include modelling and initiatives to reduce nutrient levels and work to remove and control pest fish and water weeds.”

Chairman Shepherd says the size of the regional council’s own financial contribution to the two projects reflects its strong commitment toward improving regional water quality.

“However, the value of the work the landowners involved will be contributing over the lives of these two projects is also substantial and should be publicly recognised and applauded.”

Chairman Shepherd says this includes a vast range of things such as fencing waterways, providing stock water reticulation, riparian planting, soil conservation for erosion control, afforestation, land reversion/retirement, constructing wetlands or storm water retention bunds.

“While technically these two projects will cost a total of just over $4M over the next several years, when the value of the landowners’ efforts is also factored in the true worth will greatly exceed that figure.”

Chairman Shepherd says the council wishes to congratulate all those involved and looks forward to the water quality improvements they will bring to the participating areas.

Meanwhile, he says in addition to the two regional council-led projects funded today, the government announced it would also contribute more than $480,000 towards the costs of two other iwi-led projects in Northland.