At a second water forum held in Wānaka last Monday, Shaping our Future’s Upper Clutha Water Taskforce shared a simple vision for freshwater: pure water, healthy ecosystems, engaged community. Each part of the vision supports and relies on the other two parts.
The taskforce has met regularly over the past 15 months, developing a range of draft recommendations towards achieving the vision. The recommendations were grouped into three categories: leadership and management; community culture — education and awareness; research and monitoring. A short survey is available this week for anyone wishing to provide feedback on the taskforce’s vision and recommendations www.surveymonkey.com/r/UCFreshwater
Those attending the forum recognised the need for action. While changes to water quality and ecosystem health are already evident to many, it may take decades for the impacts of growth and land-use change to fully materialise. Current regulation, monitoring and enforcement is not robust, resulting in damage to our sensitive environment, for example by stormwater runoff from development activities. Water monitoring samples taken from the middle of lakes and several kilometres downstream of wastewater outflows are not a true reflection of our district’s water quality.
The Ministry for the Environment’s recently released Action for Healthy Waterways incorporates a commitment from the government to stop the degradation of waterways, so that water quality is materially improving within five years, and to restore them to a healthy state within a generation. The government has redrafted the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, requiring councils to measure and manage a broader range of ecosystem health attributes.
Our community is not prepared to wait for water quality to deteriorate further before taking action to protect what we have here in the Upper Clutha. The Upper Clutha Lakes Trust (UCLT) is currently facilitating the development of an Integrated Catchment Management Plan for the Upper Clutha and is also establishing the Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre in Wānaka. The work being done by UCLT and groups such as Friends of Bullock Creek and Touchstone would not be possible without the support of volunteers.
Achieving the vision for freshwater in the Upper Clutha requires meaningful support and commitment from QLDC, ORC and central government and collaboration between residents, visitors, iwi, landowners and businesses. Working together, we will better understand how to ensure that our individual actions won’t degrade water quality or harm the environment, so future generations continue to enjoy the benefits of pure water, healthy ecosystems and an engaged community.