Local charitable trust WAI Wānaka is successfully managing a Jobs for Nature programme delivering positive environmental outcomes for the Upper Clutha, deploying workers on farm properties to carry out pest control, planting, fencing and biodiversity monitoring work.
WAI Wānaka is also one of the 178 community entities across New Zealand who collectively sought a total of $394 million in funding from the latest round of the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund. This funding is aimed at projects that create employment and improve the management of lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater and wetlands. With $19 m of funding available in this round, only 5 per cent of the applications proved successful, clearly demonstrating that more funding is needed to support the country’s aspirations for freshwater improvement.
WAI Wānaka’s application was amongst the many that were unsuccessful. WAI Wānaka’s proposal involved numerous community stakeholders working collectively to protect our nationally significant waterways and their catchments. The proposal was built on a Freshwater Improvement Fund project funded in 2018, which last year delivered a Community Catchment Plan for the Upper Clutha. WAI Wānaka sought funding from the Freshwater Improvement Fund to develop an integrated science-led project to support evidence-based lakes and catchment management and progress the delivery of the 60 actions identified in the Community Catchment Plan. In addition to job creation and skills development for local workers displaced from the tourism sector, project outcomes included wetlands restoration, habitat protection for native fish and threatened species, and community education and awareness initiatives to broaden participation by businesses, residents and visitors.
The Community Catchment Plan highlighted that the South Island’s deep-water alpine lakes and their catchments face multiple risks. Local communities continue to be concerned about freshwater and have become more engaged in recent years in discussion about water quality, water values and water management.
Delivering the action needed to support essential concepts such as Te Mana o te Wai and mātauranga Māori requires collaboration and partnership across a broad range of stakeholders. Investment in more data collection and research will ensure the protection of our water bodies, enhance ecosystem health status and mitigate effects of growth, land use change, pollutants and invasive species.
It is to be hoped that the government can significantly increase current funding to support the many groups across New Zealand working to provide an enduring legacy for future generations through community-led freshwater improvement projects.
Read edition 1021 of the Wānaka Sun here.