Timaru community shares views on the future of Waitarakao Washdyke Lagoon

The South Canterbury community has provided a wealth of information, ideas and stories to Our Waitarakao – a project to help restore the health of the Waitarakao Washdyke Lagoon catchment.

The community feedback, which is summarised at ourwaitarakao.co.nz, shows overwhelming support for restoring the health and mauri of the lagoon catchment – as well as many concerns for loss of wetlands and wildlife, and calls for better access and walkways.

Our Waitarakao is a partnership between Te Rūnanga o Arowhenuathe Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury, and Timaru District Council to plan for the area’s future by addressing problems with water quality, wildlife habitat, flooding, erosion, and the impacts of climate change.

High community interest shown

Our Waitarakao Steering Group spokesperson, Environment Canterbury General Manager - South Canterbury, Justin McLauchlan, says interest from the community was outstanding.

"The community’s support for Our Waitarakao has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only are people keen to see a better future for this area, but they are already coming up with their own ideas for how everyone can help – giving a real sense of shared responsibility."

"We’d like to thank every person, group and organisation that took the time to talk to us about the next steps for improving Waitarakao Lagoon and catchment area."

During June and July 2023, Our Waitarakao had a great turn-out to community information events, 170 community surveys were completed, as well as more than 90 'ideas and stories' submitted to the project team. There was also strong interest from businesses, landowners and groups in the area with 13 stakeholder meetings held. More than 100 people were keen to be part of future workshops.

In addition, the wider Timaru community pitched in to raise awareness of Our Waitarakao. People co-hosted additional events to highlight the importance of improving the health of the area, including displays and activities at the South Canterbury Museum, South Canterbury Eco Centre, Timaru Library, articles in the local media, planting events and beach clean ups.

Decline of natural environment is a key concern

Across the different types of feedback, people were most concerned about the decline of the natural environment of the lagoon and the wider catchment area.

In the community survey, the top four areas of concern were: loss of wetland and plant habitat; declining water quality in the lagoon from urban and rural activity; erosion of the beach, lagoon and coastal land; and disturbance of bird nesting areas from motorised vehicles, humans and dogs.

There was also a lot of feedback that people have experienced litter and rubbish when visiting the lagoon and calls for better access, walkways and information about the lagoon area.

Next steps for developing the strategy

The project team and its steering group will now use the feedback and knowledge gained through this engagement with the community to help inform the next steps of creating the strategy.

This will include some additional focused community workshops looking at different ideas for improving the health of the area, as well as how to measure success. A proposed strategy for the lagoon catchment will then be drafted and available for feedback in the first half of 2024.

For more information and to join the e-newsletter visit www.ourwaitarakao.co.nz.