Over the last two and a half years, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has worked on a project to improve the freshwater health catchment groups from across the country, with help from the Ministry for Environment's (MfE) Freshwater Improvement Fund. One of these groups is the Thomson's Creek Catchment Group in Central Otago.
The group’s vision is “Healthy Waterways, Healthy Land, Healthy People, Healthy Future”.
Coordinator Carolyne Latham, a local farmer, says the catchment area which is bordered by Te Aka Aka/Ashley Estuary and the coast on the eastern side and extends into Ashley Downs on the western side, contains a mix of farms, lifestyle blocks, industry and the small towns of Ashley, Sefton and Balcairn.
The group provides people from different backgrounds with an opportunity to get involved in learning about and improving the local environment.
“We had 31 people at our initial meeting a year ago who gave us a mandate to form the group and interest is ongoing from new members.”
Carolyne describes the first year as “a bit of a fact-finding mission” with several meetings and a series of field trips across the catchment.
“We’ve had presentations on the current state of waterways including Te Aka Aka/Ashley Estuary and we’ve learned how to take stream water samples and assess stream health.
“We’ve also visited retention areas on hill-fed Stony and Fox’s creeks and learned how they function to capture sediment in run-off before it reaches spring-fed streams on the flats.
“It’s very much a locally-led initiative with members setting the direction and deciding what they need to know in terms of meeting the group’s vision for a healthy catchment.”
One of the members hosted the group on their lifestyle block to demonstrate how minor earthworks such as swales and bunding could be used to slow water, soak it into the ground, stop erosion and settle sediment out.
In May, the group visited Ashley Forest with Rayonier Matariki Forests. Carolyne says this site visit covered the entire headwaters of the catchment and provided an in-depth understanding of the environmental regulations that plantation forests are required to operate under, along with weed and pest control, and general forestry management.
The group has discussed expanding water monitoring networks within the catchment as there is currently minimal monitoring undertaken and limited knowledge about the state of Stony and Fox’s creeks which are both hill-fed.
“We’re keen to establish a baseline to enable benchmarking and identify trends over time which will increase our knowledge of local waterways.”
The catchment group is currently reviewing progress made during its first year and deciding what to focus on for the next 12 months.