‘More strategic’ approach backed by ORC

Otago catchment groups will receive additional funding from the Otago Regional Council after councillors backed "a more strategic approach" to community-led freshwater improvements earlier this week.

At the start of Wednesday’s council meeting in Dunedin, five representatives from four catchment groups — from North Otago, Wanaka, South Otago and the Maniototo — told councillors about the work their groups were doing to improve water quality and biodiversity in their patch.

They were then canvassed on the direction the council should take.

All five supported moving from the status quo and adding $200,000 to the 2020-21 annual plan to further support community action on Otago waterways.

Cr Bryan Scott asked the catchment group leaders if the money on offer was enough and advised councillors to listen rather
than "diving into a corner and coming up with our own mad scheme".

"The ORC has slipped behind and it’s actually you guys [catchment groups] leading," he said.

"We haven’t appreciated that as a council."

The council this week also agreed to establish a working group that would include representatives of catchment groups to develop "a more detailed implementation plan and options for funding" for the the council’s next long-term plan.

Randall Aspinall, representing Wanaka, said each catchment group had different land, different farms and "different approaches".

The catchment group he represented had 14 of 16 farms in the area on board, but start-up groups could face hurdles, requiring funds to get established.

"In our area there are gaps that need to be filled," he said.

Pomahaka Water Care Group chairman Lloyd McCall said clear and concise rules were needed and the council should incentivise involvement with catchment groups.

As each of the catchment groups were separate legal entities, associated costs presented a hurdle for start-up groups.

North Otago Sustainable Land Management group member Lyndon Strang said the funding it received from multiple agencies allowed it to employ a paid co-ordinator, which was getting the group "huge gains".

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