Water permeates through all aspects of Waitaki life

It's no surprise that Mat Baylis has ended up immersed in the management of water in the Waitaki region after growing up in Otematata and spending his childhood fishing, swimming and boating on the lakes and rivers of the region.

Water - and how we use this vital resource - continues to be a principal focus for Mat, who is a member of the Upper Waitaki zone committee and Asset Maintenance Manager for Meridian Energy in Twizel.

"Water just permeates through all aspects of life here. It's really important to me. I've also travelled a lot and seen for myself what happens in places where they don't take care of this asset and wouldn't want that to happen here."

Mat is one of the founding members of the Upper Waitaki zone committee and got involved after seeing a public notice for a new collaborative approach to water management that piqued his interest.

"I didn't know what the zone committee was but what I did know was that our community was talking about water all the time. I trucked along to the meeting and the rest is history – here I am."

What has kept him involved is that the issues around water in the Waitaki are "many and varied."

"Our water here is very important to New Zealand from the perspective of our electricity supply - about 20% of New Zealand's electricity supply is generated here in the Waitaki. Water passes through 8 hydro power stations on its way to the sea.

"Water is also very important to our farming sector, which is a massive contributor to our local economy. Water also features very strongly in our landscape - some of New Zealand's most iconic lakes and rivers are here, which is why we have so many domestic and foreign tourists."

The strength of the committee comes from bringing these different views together, he says.

"When the Canterbury Water Management Strategy was unfolding before my eyes there were many times that I thought "this is madness - how are we ever going to achieve consensus amongst these very different viewpoints?" I think a major achievement of the Upper Waitaki zone, in particular, is to have a broad cross-section consensus across those competing interests.

"It's not perfect but I think the most important thing is the community of the Waitaki leading the process and that’s something we have good reason to be very proud of."

The Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee is one of 10 committees in the Canterbury region tasked with identifying water issues and developing solutions to improve water quality and quantity.

Its membership is made up of community, Rūnanga, and local and regional council representatives.  You can find out who the current members are here.