The Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum met on 7 October to farewell independent chair Richard Thompson and welcome a new co-chair arrangement of Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Incorporated chief executive Danielle Harris ONZM and Horizons Regional Council chair Rachel Keedwell.
Richard Thompson has been the Forum chair since the Manawatū River Leaders’ Accord was signed in August 2010 and integral to the success of the working relationships established through the Forum.
Horizons Regional Council chair Rachel Keedwell says that when the Accord was signed not all partners agreed on what needed to be done to help improve the Manawatū River.
“As a result one of the biggest challenges to begin with was figuring out how we could all work together to achieve our common goal, which was to improve the health and mana of the awa,” says Ms Keedwell.
“I believe the place we’ve got to now, versus where we started, is in large part due to Richard’s leadership. I’ve admired his commitment to the cause as this role has always been more than just a job to him and wish him all the best for the future.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Danielle Harris under the co-chair model. I think this shows how far we have come as a group in that fact that we no longer need an independent chair to keep this Forum on track.”
Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Incorporated chief executive Danielle Harris says Richard has been very involved in the action underway to improve the awa.
“Richard has put in an immense amount of work in the background with Forum partners and to help us get central government funding for the Accord. I know he will continue to be an advocate for the awa and look forward to when our paths cross again in the future.
“I am looking forward to working with my co-chair Rachel Keedwell as we build on the last ten years and set our sights on the next ten years and beyond.”
Richard Thompson says a stand out of his time as the independent chair has been how people have worked together to stimulate important improvements.
“The relationships that have been established have solidified into something impressive and lasting, regardless of how each individual group felt back when the Accord was signed,” he says.
“I’m very proud of the degree of mana that the river has now, because it was poor 10 years ago. I look forward to seeing what progress the Forum makes under the leadership of Danielle and Rachel, it’s a new era and an exciting one.”
The meeting also reflected on the significant body of work undertaken by Accord partners, such as iwi and hapū, local government, environmental groups, community groups, industry and landowners over the last ten years to help restore the Manawatū River and catchment.
“This has been a herculean effort very much worth celebrating as dollars can place no value on all the mahi and results we are experiencing and seeing,” says Ms Harris.
“In conjunction with central government funding, over $66 million has been invested through Accord initiatives. This includes more than 5 million trees being planted, 1,000km of stream fencing erected, 68 fish passage barriers removed, and over 70 community projects established in ten years.”
Cr Keedwell says the Manawatū Catchment has one of the most extensive monitoring networks in the country. Collectively the Forum’s actions, along with many others, have contributed towards some positive results.
“In particular, we have seen improvements in water quality in association with changes to point source discharges where some have been upgraded and others have been removed altogether or combined with the Palmerston North’s wastewater treatment,” says Cr Keedwell.
“Improving the quality of the awa is going to take time. We can see that in the data we are collecting – things change slowly.”
Ms Harris says improvements help motivate everyone to keep going as all involved know there’s more work to be done.
“Under the new leadership model we’ll be looking at how best to achieve more results and refresh the Accord so it’s fit for purpose for the next ten years,” says Ms Harris.
“I see this including bringing mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) into future actions and activities related to the Manawatū awa.”