Weir study included in new Otipua-Saltwater Creek projects

Environment Canterbury has approved several new projects for Otipua-Saltwater Creek, including an engineering study of its weir.

Expertise is being sought to assess scope for modifying the centre structure of the 20 year-old weir, located near the coast below Otipua Wetland.

The aim of any modification would be to allow greater control of the rate of water flow into the lower lagoon in mid to late summer, whilst retaining fish passage up and downstream between flood flows in spring and autumn.

Environment Canterbury zone lead for Orari Temuka Pareora Opihi, Brian Reeves, says: “This project could offer some help to recreational water users such as Timaru Rowing Club, who find levels too shallow at that time of year.

“It would not make up for lack of summer rainfall, however, as this catchment is not spring-fed and is dependent on rainfall for its flow.”

Survey of plants and animals

A second new project, in collaboration with the Timaru District Council, is a survey of plants and animal life at Otipua Wetland, to help guide future management options. This will begin with an I-Naturalist field observations day for the public on Saturday 14 September, at the start of NZ Conservation Week.  The educational ‘Aqua-Van’ from the University of Otago will also visit that day, which will be promoted as ‘A wild day at the wetland’.

Mr Reeves said: “Much of the activity for this natural values survey will take place in spring and summer. There will be lots of opportunity for volunteers to get involved as citizen scientists.  We will collaborate with wildlife experts, Department of Conservation, Timaru District Council and the Catchment Group, to maximise the value of the study.”

Encouraging best practice farming

In addition, support will continue to be available from Environment Canterbury staff for farmers who are developing Farm Environment Plans, for example on how to reduce silt run-off from steep paddocks in the catchment.

Environment Canterbury advisors can visit free of charge to help farm landowners with actions to reduce soil, phosphorus and bacteria loss into waterways, support greater biodiversity on the farm and/or develop local potential to support traditional food or materials gathering (mahinga kai). 

The Catchment Group is also planning to work this year with groups of smaller block owners to encourage good practice in riparian fencing, planting and septic tank management. About a third of the land area of the catchment is in small block ownership and, although under a sixth of the area is urban, the slopes below Otipua and Glen-Iti Roads include more than 1000 households.

Education for Timaruvians on where the stormwater goes and how to keep it cleaner will be a project activity as well.  As an example, students at Timaru Boys' High School have shown interest in being involved this spring. “Road drains are only for rain” will be a theme.

The projects are funded out of Environment Canterbury’s regional support to deliver local outcomes within the wider Canterbury Water Management Strategy. 

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