Freshwater catchment group brings the community together

Establishing a collective voice and providing an opportunity for the community to have a say on freshwater are two of the reasons behind the formation of the Sefton Saltwater Creek Catchment Group, which is due to celebrate its first anniversary this month.

The group’s vision is “Healthy Waterways, Healthy Land, Healthy People, Healthy Future”.

Co-ordinator Carolyne Latham, a local farmer, says the catchment area which is bordered by Te Aka Aka/Ashley Estuary and the coast on the eastern side and extends into Ashley Downs on the western side, contains a mix of farms, lifestyle blocks, industry and the small towns of Ashley, Sefton and Balcairn.

A diverse group improving the local environment

Ashley Estuary

Overlooking the Te Aka Aka/Ashley Estuary and some of the Sefton Saltwater Creek catchment area

The group provides people from different backgrounds with an opportunity to get involved in learning about and improving the local environment.

“We had 31 people at our initial meeting a year ago who gave us a mandate to form the group and interest is ongoing from new members,” Carolyne said.

Carolyne describes the first year as “a bit of a fact-finding mission”, with several meetings and a series of field trips across the catchment.

“We’ve had presentations on the current state of waterways including Te Aka Aka/Ashley Estuary and we’ve learned how to take stream water samples and assess stream health. 

“We’ve also visited retention areas on hill-fed Stony and Fox’s creeks, and learned how they function to capture sediment in run-off before it reaches spring-fed streams on the flats.

“It’s very much a locally-led initiative with members setting the direction and deciding what they need to know in terms of meeting the group’s vision for a healthy catchment.”

One of the members hosted the group on their lifestyle block to demonstrate how minor earthworks such as swales and bunding could be used to slow water, soak it into the ground, stop erosion and settle sediment out.

In May the group visited Ashley Forest with Rayonier Matariki Forests. Carolyne says this visit covered the entire headwaters of the catchment and provided an in-depth understanding of the environmental regulations that plantation forests are required to operate under, along with weed and pest control, and general forestry management.

Expanding water monitoring networks

The group has discussed expanding water monitoring networks within the catchment as currently minimal monitoring is undertaken and there is limited knowledge about the state of Stony and Fox’s creeks, which are both hill-fed.

“We’re keen to establish a baseline to enable benchmarking and identify trends over time which will increase our knowledge of local waterways,” she said.

The catchment group is currently reviewing progress made during its first year and deciding what to focus on for the next 12 months. If you would like to learn more about the group, please email Carolyne Latham.

Feature image: Sefton Saltwater Creek Catchment Group members learned about environmental regulations for plantation forests during a recent visit to Ashley Forest hosted by Rayonier Matariki Forests.