Shag River award thanks to farmer efforts, Federated Farmers says

The Shag River, in East Otago, won the Grand Award at the inaugural New Zealand River Awards last week. Photo by the Otago Regional Council.
The Shag River, in East Otago, won the Grand Award at the inaugural New Zealand River Awards last week. Photo by the Otago Regional Council.
The success of Otago's rivers in the inaugural New Zealand River Awards is testament to the farmers who work the land in Otago's catchments, Federated Farmers says.

The Shag River won the Grand Award at the awards - which recognise the most significant improvements in river health in New Zealand - in Wellington last Thursday, while the Waikouaiti River came third.

Federated Farmers water spokesman Ian Mackenzie said the Shag River had ''come a long way'' since 10 years ago and ''it is a credit to those farmers who care for and value their river''.

''Change is hard for everyone, but once you take the time to get everyone on board you can really make a difference,'' Mr Mackenzie said.

''Changing the result of 30 years of degradation is not a quick fix - there is no instant gratification - so that is why 10 years on from the water management plan's implementation you are seeing some positive results.''

Federated Farmers Otago president Stephen Korteweg said he was pleased with the result.

''There has been a significant improvement in E. coli levels in the river over the past 10 years, with levels recovering by 13% a year since 2004,'' Mr Korteweg said.

''It hasn't always been smooth, but we have a great working relationship with the Otago Regional Council now, and we're excited to build on the progress being made. It has proven that while changing practices on individual farms may appear to be insignificant, the cumulative impact across a catchment can be enough to turn the tide on deteriorating water quality.''

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead accepted the award on behalf of the Otago community and said he was ''immensely gratified'' the Shag River had won.

''It was a huge pleasure to accept the award, particularly on behalf of farmers and others in the catchment who have worked hard to implement rules in the Otago water plan aimed at improving water quality,'' Mr Woodhead said.