From our Chair: Reinvigorating urban waterways

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

*Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Much of the focus on Canterbury’s waterways falls on our majestic alpine braided rivers and the smaller, but still significant, rivers which wend their way from the foothills to the sea.

This is as you might expect, given the energy and sediment from these major water courses have built our region, continue to shape it, and effectively divide it into the smaller areas, such as North Canterbury, Mid-Canterbury and South Canterbury, in which we live and work.

However, our urban rivers and streams also play an essential role in our health and wellbeing, and their viability is important for native species and the protection of our environment.

I was thrilled recently to hear that several key waterway restoration projects around the Greater Christchurch area have won grants for significant chunks of money for work that will improve water management and also create jobs.

Funding for three urban river projects

The three project groups supported by the Government’s Freshwater Improvement Fund, part of the $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature environment programme, are:

  • The Styx Living Laboratory Trust, receiving $4,159,704 across five years to support community-led restoration efforts of the Pūharakekenui/Styx River.
  • Te Taumatu Rūnanga, on behalf of the Te Waihora Co-Governance Group, receiving $2,160,084 across five years to restore a whole catchment, its water quality, māhinga kai and biodiversity, along Te Waikēkēwai/Waikēkēwai Stream, on the south-western edge of Lake Ellesmere.
  • The Christchurch City Council, receiving $1,495,000 over three years to restore the integrity of the Cashmere Stream.

This round of funding through the Ministry for the Environment included money for work to reduce sediment erosion, construct and restore wetlands, reinstate streams, protect estuaries, restore fisheries and fish passage, create jobs and build capability in freshwater management.

Styx river project

Styx Mill Conservation Reserve

Styx Mill Conservation Reserve

I’m especially excited at the funding for the Styx Living Laboratory Trust. It is a wonderful boost for the hard work that has already been taking place in one of our significant urban waterways - work which has been supported by the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and many others over the years.

Their project, ‘Protecting the Pūharakekenui/Styx River as a viable spring-fed river ecosystem’ is expected to cost $9.2 million all up and supports community-led efforts.

The work on the river is likely to provide the equivalent of 43 full-time jobs over the years and will include getting rid of pest plants in the catchment, protecting water quality, and restoring the viability of vulnerable waterways.

The Pūharakekenui/Styx River is very close to our hearts at Environment Canterbury. Some of our experts are members of the Styx Living Laboratory Trust, which we have supported financially since it was set up in 2002.

Find out more about the Styx-Purakaunui Living Laboratory Trust

Cashmere Stream

Cashmere stream restoration project planting day

Cashmere Stream restoration project planting day

It is also really good to see the interest in helping save the health of the Cashmere Stream, on the other side of the city.

The stream forms part of a historically significant wetland traditionally used by Māori for food gathering and is home to several threatened species, such as kōura (freshwater crayfish), kākahi (freshwater mussels), tuna, inanga, pied stilts, oystercatchers and the southern grass skink.

Find out more about the Cashmere Stream restoration project.

I’m delighted to see this recognition of the importance of such ecological and environmental work on our quintessential urban waterways and encourage you to get involved in these crucial projects

*Cr Jenny Hughey is the Chair of Environment Canterbury. Find out more about our Councillors.