In late September, Manawatū River Leaders received the final report on the Freshwater Improvement Fund (FIF) suite of projects, which saw most of the planned actions exceeding targets.
In 2017, the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum successfully bid for the central government Freshwater Improvement Fund for $2.9 million. This complemented over $5 million in contributions made by Horizons Regional Council, Horowhenua and Manawatū District Councils, Palmerston North City Council and landowners, totalling over $8 million for five years.
The purpose of the funding was to deliver the Manawatū Awa Freshwater Improvement Project to address water quality issues within the Manawatū catchment. Seven different projects were proposed and six completed over the five year funding period.
“The project adopted a multi-pronged approach, incorporating support from our communities, iwi and landowners,” says Manawatū River Leaders Accord (MRLA) co-chair Rachel Keedwell.
“We exceeded expectations on nearly all of our targets, and created opportunities for greater community engagement and involvement in freshwater management than achieved previously.”
The result saw the construction of 303.45km of stream fencing, 427,807 riparian plants planted, 23 fish passage remediated, the funding of 50 community led projects, completion of four iwi environmental management plans, and the implementation of the Urban Streams project in Palmerston North which led to the Urban Eels platform and the construction of a footbridge over the Turitea Stream, amongst other planting activities.
Interim co-chair Te Kenehi Teira identifies the benefits of higher levels of community involvement.
“Community involvement over the past five years has led to increased awareness of freshwater management across the board, and allowed for a faster rate of implementation of works within the catchment by speeding up existing programmes along with the establishment of new ones,” he says.
“All of this is incredibly positive as we work together to improve the quality of the Manawatū Awa.”
The completion of the Freshwater Improvement Fund is timely as the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum consider the framework for the next iteration of the Accord’s Action Plan.
Accord members are undertaking a series of workshops led by Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research to review the work of the Forum and inform the next phase of work. The workshops have been broken into sector groups, with a report and recommendations to be provided to Accord members early next year.
Alongside the workshops, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research will carry out a public consultation to capture community aspirations for the awa.
In addition, Hone Morris and Jonathan Proctor of Massey University recently developed a Mataurangi Māori framework which will feed into the Action Plan.
“The Accord has been in place now for twelve years and we have made huge progress in that time,” says Rachel Keedwell.
“This is our chance to make sure we don’t get complacent, we are looking at what we can do better and how we can best ensure we are improving the health of the awa.”