Standing up for water quality

A deep-seated desire to improve his local river prompted Flaxton resident Michael Blackwell to join the Waimakariri Water Zone Committee.

“Thirty- five years working next to the Kaiapoi River and walking across it at least twice a day has allowed me to see how much it has deteriorated over time. Instead of just complaining about it, I decided to put my hand up to try to improve it.”

After joining the zone committee last year, Michael has gained a deeper understanding of the complexity of the issues facing local waterways. The interactive nature of the committee and the wide range of members involved means everyone has a different skillset to offer. This is backed up by the wealth of knowledge that the science team and other experts present to the committee.

As the fifth generation of the Blackwell family to operate the iconic Kaiapoi department store, Michael meets a broad range of people in his daily work and he aims to reflect their views back to the committee.

“I see a huge range of people from different backgrounds each day and they all have different opinions on what should happen with our streams, rivers and biodiversity. It’s important to be able to take these views to the committee.

“Everyone agrees that the Kaiapoi River is the heart of our town and plays a huge role in the community, so people are really passionate about improving it.”

Now that the Zone Implementation Programme Addendum (ZIPA) is complete, Michael is keen to move forward with practical actions and the sub-catchment plans.

“We’ve laid the first foundation stone with the ZIPA, but it’s still a long road ahead to make our rivers healthy again. I want to see the Kaiapoi River return to how it used to be and if its healthy then we will know that the entire catchment upstream has also improved.

“As members of the Waimakariri community, we all have a duty of care for our waterways and the following quote from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (2013) should be one that guides all of us; both rural and urban. ‘The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land’.”