Healthy Catchments workshop seeks community feedback on water management

As part of the Healthy Catchment Project, the Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora (OTOP) Water Zone Committee held a workshop for the public to engage in an early input into water management and healthy catchments.

“The outcomes should be bigger, braver and more dramatic”, “Concentrate on the hotspots to reduce nitrate emissions” and “Drinking water should always be the priority”.

These were just a few of the views on water management from members of the public at the workshop held by the Healthy Catchments Project in Timaru.

Around 70 people attended the workshop, the third in a series led by the Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora (OTOP) Water Zone Committee to develop recommendations on how to manage the water resources in the zone.

At the workshop, community members were shown what impact different scenarios for water management would have on river water quality, the supply of irrigation for farming and the cultural and recreational importance of the waterways.

The scenarios looked at how better use can be made of the water that’s already in the zone by, for example, improving on-farm management practices, and what would happen if we brought in water from another source outside the zone.

Participants were able to ask questions about the scenarios and then worked in groups to talk about aspects of the scientific work that they would like the zone committee to consider as part of its solutions package.

The importance of engaging the community

The feedback from the session, as well as two other sessions recently held in Fairlie and Geraldine, will help inform the zone committee to understand what the community feels is important to address.

OTOP Chair, John Talbot, explained: “Clearly, none of these scenarios on their own address all of our water management challenges, so we will be picking and choosing the best parts of these. We are also looking for new thinking and extra ideas and I know we have got some of those tonight.”

Michael Hide, Environment Canterbury Zone Manager - South Canterbury, says gaining the community’s input at an early stage of the project is important.

“Public workshops provide local people with the opportunity to learn about the science that has been investigated to date, ask questions and work in groups to agree on what is acceptable in relation to water management. Ongoing discussions with communities within the zone are a crucial part of developing the Project’s outcomes.”

The Healthy Catchments Project started in mid-2016 by gathering scientific information and working with local people, councils, industry, and community groups to develop outcomes for water management to deliver the goals of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy.

The zone committee will now begin to shape up a ‘package of solutions’ based on the feedback from these recent public workshops, as well as previous sessions in 2016, scientific information and input from river catchment groups.

For more information on the Healthy Catchments Project – visit the Healthy Catchments Project.  Read about some of the current Orari-Temuka-Opihi-Pareora (OTOP) zone projects here.