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The Upper Clutha Lakes Trust has begun a five-year project to establish a "community water management plan" for the next 50 years.
In addition to creating the plan, the trust will carry out riparian planting and study the effects of urban stormwater runoff.
The trust has identified urban growth, farming, tourism, invasive species and climate change as the main factors affecting waterways. Leader of the governance group, Mandy Bell, said the aim was to understand the community’s values, assess the projected future of Upper Clutha catchments and lakes in 50 years and develop a framework to achieve that objective.
"We are working together to define the challenges for our waterways and explore potential solutions to support water quality and ecosystem function," she said.
Planting activities are being managed by Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust, which plans to plant 24,000 trees in the next five years.
Te Kakano spokesman Neil Woodrow said planting would be on public land and would also involve partnerships with local landowners.
"One of the key outcomes is demonstrating an improvement in water quality as a result of our planting," he said.
The run-off research is being led by the University of Otago’s Catchments Otago group.
Group spokesman Gerry Closs said rapid development meant more sediments, pathogens, nutrients and chemical contaminants were being washed into waterways.
"As well as understanding the impacts from that runoff, we need to plan and build infrastructure to manage urban stormwater now, as that infrastructure can’t be retrofitted in 10 or 20 years," he said.
The research team planned to work in with Queenstown Lakes District Council and Otago Regional Council plans, to identify gaps and avoid overlaps.
District council chief executive Mike Theelen said it had seen the recent effects of development on the streams and lakes during heavy downfalls.
"The water management plan work is a key part of improving our understanding of the effects and how to better manage future urban growth."
The trust is keen to connect with people in the region who have a background or interest in freshwater management and are willing to get involved.