Group aims to improve water quality

The Southland Regional Forum is set to deliver its recommendations on ways to drastically improve freshwater in Southland.

The group, which includes farmers, met for its final workshop at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff earlier this month.

Forum chairwoman Fiona Smith said the group had finalised its recommendations in a report setting out ways to drastically improve freshwater in Southland.

The forum — made up of farmers, scientists, business people, students, environmentalists and manawhenua — has held more than 20 workshops around the region and online over the past three years.

"They have been gathering information, hearing from experts, scientists, stakeholders and manawhenua with the challenge of coming up with recommendations for how to improve Southland’s freshwater over the next 25 years."

The 15 members had different perspectives and experiences and had entered into the process with the best of intentions.

"We are sure that our recommendations will mean a significant step towards bridging the massive gaps between current water issues and where we should be."

The forum will deliver its report and recommendations to Environment Southland and the Te Ao Marama Inc board.

The big issues impacting freshwater and Te Mana o te Wai (the vital importance of the water) in Southland include extensive loss of wetlands; the amount of sediment and nutrients in some rivers, lakes and estuaries; risks to human health (from recreation and drinking); issues with quantity of water in some areas affecting the health or hauora of the water; and the inability to use freshwater for mahinga kai purposes.

Also in the forum are deputy chairman Phil Morrison and members Bernadette Hunt, Cain Duncan, Darren Rewi, David Diprose, Estelle Pera-Leask, Ewen Pirie, Hayden Slee, Kelsi Hayes, Lisa Pearson, Michelle Roberts, Paul Marshall, Sean Bragg and Vaughan Templeton.