$1.8m for water quality work

Otago South River Care project manager Lloyd McCall  inspects a dairy paddock 
Otago South River Care project manager Lloyd McCall inspects a dairy paddock drain on a Lovells Flat farm in 2019. The second, $3.4million phase of the catchment water quality improvement project will be launched today. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
An embryonic water quality project is about to take off, thanks to $1.8million of government funding, announced last night.

The Ministry for Primary Industries revealed the boost to stakeholders in the farmer-led Otago South River Care catchment project at the group’s annual meeting in Balclutha last night.

Project manager Lloyd McCall said the money would be supplemented by a further $1.6million of cash and in-kind investment from stakeholders, giving a $3.4million project total for the next three years.

The money would be used in part to fund two new staff to lead the project on the ground.

He praised the Ministry for funding grassroots efforts to improve rural freshwater quality.

"This is where the Government wants to be working to most effectively improve water quality and environmental outcomes rurally.

"As proven in the neighbouring Pathway for the Pomahaka project, the farmer-led catchment system gives by far the best gains in water quality by getting long-term buy-in from local stakeholders, and putting them in control of their future."

He said the new project would be based on Pomahaka, and would build further on initial work carried out in South Otago during the past three years in establishing five localised catchment sub-groups.

The five groups would collaborate under the new structure, sharing ideas, successes and information regarding water quality testing, effective winter grazing options, riparian planting, wetland establishment, sedimentation trap construction and two-stage ditching.

Technological innovation would be encouraged, Mr McCall said.

MPI investment programmes director Steve Penno said the funding was part of a national total to date of $20.6million granted through its Productive and Sustainable Land Use programme, and $9.7million from its Jobs for Nature programme.

Mr Penno said the ministry hoped what was learnt from this project could be implemented as an "exemplar model" for councils and farmers in other regions.

"The project will engage South Otago communities to improve ecosystem health, freshwater quality, and increase the value of food and fibre products produced in the district.

"MPI is supportive of the catchment group approach to improve sustainable land management and farmer wellbeing. It’s an effective way of enabling farmer-to- farmer learning and encouraging changes to farming practices, that results in improved water quality."

Mr McCall said the application for funding had been two years in the making.

"We’re pretty chuffed to get it over the line. On the evidence of Pomahaka, it will make a real difference to freshwater quality and farmer engagement locally.

"Let’s see South Otago get into it."



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