Farmers ‘ecstatic’ water work funded

Pomahaka Water Care Group chairman Simon O’Meara (left), and project manager Lloyd McCall inspect...
Pomahaka Water Care Group chairman Simon O’Meara (left), and project manager Lloyd McCall inspect plants earmarked for the initiative’s next phase, at the group’s Tapanui nursery yesterday. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
A farmer-led water quality project will step up a gear next month, thanks to $3.7million of Government funding.

West Otago’s award-winning Pomahaka Water Care Group (PWCG) is launching its Pomahaka Corridor Planting Project early next month, which will lead to the planting of an anticipated 216,000 native riverbank species, and the installation of 100km of riparian fencing on farms throughout the district.

The funding will come from the Provincial Growth Fund ($2.3million) and the remainder from the One Billion Trees Fund.

PWCG chairman Simon O’Meara said the group’s 170 farmer members were "ecstatic" to receive the support.

"We only applied for the funding in June, and we’ve been able to put out tenders for the work to begin next month, October, so it’s a pretty quick turnaround.

"The scale of the project might be a bit daunting, but we’re ecstatic to receive this acknowledgement of our members’ efforts to date, and to be able to step things up a gear."

The funding would be awarded under the Government’s Jobs for Nature initiative, which encourages projects to employ local labour where possible.

Mr O’Meara said fencing would be sourced from local producers, and Tapanui firm Blue Mountain Nurseries would be a key supplier of plants, including sedge, flax, toitoi, cabbage tree and ribbonwood.

Project manager Lloyd McCall, who has been a key member of the Pomahaka initiative since it began in 2015, said the aims of the project were threefold.

"Obviously, the primary aim is to continue the improvements to catchment water quality the group’s been making. But the plantings will also foster greater biodiversity on the Pomahaka tributaries, and visitors to West Otago should notice an improvement in the appearance of the landscape."

He said targeted waterways would be chosen on the basis of "best outcome" for the whole catchment, and farmers benefiting would also contribute financially to the project.

Although the entire catchment had some 4100km of riverbank, only 300km had been identified as requiring "target fencing", meaning the funding would allow for a third of the core areas to be completed.

Mr McCall said the group would talk to other catchment stakeholders before getting under way next month.

"We’re talking with Otago Regional Council to get some riverbank preparation done before we begin, and we’ll be making sure all the necessary boxes are ticked elsewhere.

"We’d like to see the first plants in the ground early October."

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