Water zone committee proud to back environmental projects

As we get set for the start of spring (hurrah!), I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about our water zone committee, and some of the fantastic work we're supporting in your area.

Water zone committees are made up of community members, rūnanga and councils.

We make recommendations to Environment Canterbury about how to allocate funding for community-led projects that help us deliver our Action Plan goals.

For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of committee life is watching these projects flourish.

Enhancing local ecosystems

Restoration work being carried out at Te Kopi-O-Te Ōpihi/Burkes Pass, is one such example.

This project will eventually transform a stretch of the upper Ōpihi River adjacent to the Burkes Pass township by restoring an ecosystem and enhancing the natural character of the area.

It will be completed in stages and is a joint effort between Te Kete Tipuranga o Huirapa Ltd (Arowhenua Native Nursery), the Burkes Pass Heritage Trust and Headley Greene Farm.

The area has significant cultural value for mana whenua as it was once used as a major travel route and was an important place for gathering kai and resources.

Key work completed since spring last year includes clearing willows from about half the overall 3.4 hectare site and the planting of an additional 1,600 natives – equipped with rabbit protectors.

Last year the water zone committee supported the project with more than $13,800 of its Action Plan budget and more help is being provided this year.

Preserving culturally significant sites

Another area of work we’re committed to is the restoration and protection of our precious Māori rock art sites, known as tuhituhi o neherā.

The zone committee organised and attended an education session at the Ōpihi site in 2022 and we’re in the process of planning another.

We’ve also funded hundreds of native plants at these locations to help improve the biodiversity of the area.

The rock art is taonga/treasure to mana whenua and Ngāi Tahu, and it’s been fascinating learning more about these drawings (some of which could be up to 1,000 years old) and the efforts to preserve them.

Restoring Waitarakao/Washdyke Lagoon

On the topic of preservation, it’s been great to see the Timaru community get behind a plan to restore Waitarakao/Washdyke Lagoon.

Our Waitarakao is a collaboration between Environment Canterbury, Department of Conservation, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua and Timaru District Council.

The water zone committee’s deputy chair, Chris Konings, sits on the project’s working group, and has enjoyed chatting with locals at recent ‘drop-in’ information events. The Waitarakao catchment is an area of focus in our Action Plan, so this project is one we’re keen to lend our support to wherever possible.

Our Waitarakao lagoon needs help. Sign up to receive updates on the plan to restore Waitarakao/Washdyke Lagoon.

Apply for funding

On that note, if you’re involved with a project that helps improve water management or enhances biodiversity, and could do with some financial support, consider applying for Action Plan funding.

For more information, check out ecan.govt.nz/otopcommittee.