Communities complete plans for freshwater management

29 Sep 2017

Local plans for managing freshwater in the catchments of Doubtless Bay, Mangere, Poutō, Waitangi and Whangārei Harbour have been adopted by the Northland Regional Council, marking a milestone for the five community catchment groups involved.

The catchment-specific plans have been about four years in the making and it has been a challenging journey for the groups comprising tangata whenua, resource users such as the farming and forestry sectors, and organisations with recreational and environmental interests.

All the groups have worked collaboratively to reach consensus about how best to manage fresh water in their catchments and to develop both catchment-specific recommendations (included in the Proposed Regional Plan), and priority actions that will be worked on by less formal groups working with the council and other agencies.

Regional Council Chairman Bill Shepherd says the groups started out with little knowledge of the complexity of the water quality issues in their catchments and they took many months learning about this before agreeing on goals and objectives.

“A lot went into the learning process including field trips backed by scientific research to help them decide what their priorities were and to help us hone our own thinking,” he says.  “It has been a mammoth effort and they have taken the job very seriously on behalf of their communities.

“The council looks forward to being part of the work that now needs to be done to implement regulatory measures and at the same time work alongside the communities to help them achieve their priorities.”

A number of the catchment plans have similar rules as they had similar issues (such as making erosion control plans compulsory for highly erodible land by 2025 to address the impact of sediment in waterways), but overall are tailored to address issues specific to the individual catchments.

Among the many issues identified in the Whangārei Harbour catchment was swimming water quality and the group recommended stricter stock exclusion rules in the regional plan for streams upstream of swimming sites in the Raumanga Stream and Hātea River.  It also wants the regional council to continue to fund the removal or remediation of fish passage barriers within the Otaika, Raumanga and Waiarohia catchments.

The Mangere catchment group recommended additional rules on keeping stock out of waterways.  It also supports the transfer of native fish species by tangata whenua within the catchment, specifically the transfer of eels and banded kokopu from below the Wairua Falls.  The group wants the council’s help to create riparian forests along the Mangere River, Mangere Stream and Patuwairua Stream.

In the Poutō catchment, the plan is focused on dune lakes (there are about 50 dune lakes more than one hectare in size on the Poutō Peninsula), and recommended the Proposed Regional Plan include controls on new plantation forestry around a number of lakes with outstanding ecological values.  The catchment group has also prioritised stock exclusion and the re-establishment of vegetation in lake margins.

The Waitangi catchment group wants to investigate the potential for water storage and wetland creation / enhancement. It also seeks the council’s help to enhance native fish spawning habitats and to promote riparian planting to manage streambank erosion.

The Doubtless Bay catchment group wants farm drains running into Lake Waiporohita to be fenced and the restoration of native fish spawning sites in the catchment.

The catchment specific rules are included in the Proposed Regional Plan which is open for submissions until 4pm, Wednesday 15 November 2017.  People can read the Proposed Regional Plan and lodge submissions by visiting www.nrc.govt.nz/newregionalplan

The groups will continue to meet and will start working on the non-regulatory actions they have prioritised for their catchments.