Pūkorokoro-Miranda Catchment Mountains to Sea Project
What’s the project?
A small group of motivated landowners established the Western Firth Catchment Group Trust (WFCGT) in 2016/2017. The WFCGT residents’ and landowners’ properties extend 24 kilometres along the Western Firth from Waitakaruru to Wharekawa. These community members are focused on environmental restoration, primarily through pest control and planting. It has been running since 2018 and is chaired by local farmer Peter Roberts.
Living Water supported the WFCGT and co-designed a project to create a freshwater biodiversity corridor through farmland from the hilltop to the coast. An integrated catchment management approach from ‘Mountains to Sea’ was developed with Living Water providing tools, solutions, and funding to help landowners achieve water quality and biodiversity improvements that would collectively make a difference.
The project objectives include enhancing the Pūkorokoro-Miranda estuarine environment, which is part of the 8500-hectare Firth of Thames RAMSAR wetland, dramatically reduce sediment run-off and increase ecological resilience across the whole catchment.
What was done?
Living Water supported the project by undertaking a Catchment Condition Survey (CCS) to provide baseline data on the current state of the catchment, recording erosion-prone land, barriers to fish passage and stream fencing. Next Living Water developed and refined a geospatial catchment prioritisation tool (CAPTure). CAPTure uses spatial layers of scientific information from a variety of sources, including the CCS, to create maps showing priority areas for locating interventions to achieve freshwater improvement targets.
Living Water funded Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) for large land blocks and created hybrid FEPs for smaller blocks (under 20 hectares) removing some of the complexity and costs associated with FEPs and providing more options/flexibility.
To engage owners of smaller landholdings in catchment management a Predator Free Strategy was developed. Though not normally part of a standard integrated catchment management approach, this was the outcome of a survey of landowners and a community workshop, and was critical in engaging owners of smaller landholdings in catchment management activities.
Joint activities in the ‘Mountains to Sea’ project have included Living Water-funded installation of detention bunds in the upper catchment to capture stormwater run-off, poplar planting to stabilise erosion prone hillsides, remediation of existing culverts to allow fish passage, and the planting of streams and drains. Living Water funds the plants while the landowners fund the fencing.
Unfortunately, drought conditions in 2019/20 prevented water quality sampling. Drone footage of the catchment provides a photographic record of mitigation actions, such as silt detention dams and poplar planting on erosion-prone slopes. The Catchment Condition Survey will be repeated in 2022 to measure progress.
What has been achieved?
Living Water provided financial support to WFCGT to establish water quality improvement actions. An integrated catchment management approach incorporating a Catchment Condition Survey, and a catchment prioritisation tool (CAPTure), was developed and promoted. Farm Environment Plans (FEPs) and hybrid FEPs were completed and priority mitigations on farms were partially funded. A catchment landowner survey led to a well-attended community pest control information workshop, which resulted in the development and implementation of a Predator Free Strategy.
What did Living Water learn?
People are critical to improving water quality and biodiversity. Improving water quality involves changing people’s mindsets as much as how they farm or use the land, and successful change requires every landowner in a catchment working together in partnership with iwi, councils, and government. Working with engaged landowners and focusing on a manageable catchment area makes it easier to use an integrated approach that could be scaled across a wider area. It takes a catchment approach to improve freshwater quality. Using the Catchment Condition Survey (CCS), Catchment Prioritisation Tool (CAPTure), developing FEPs, and a Predator Free Strategy, is an engaging, credible, practical, and rational catchment management approach that can be adapted to achieve a variety of environmental outcomes in any size landscape making it ‘shovel ready’ to apply at scale. Science must be accessible to enable decision-making and give assurance to landowners and potential funders that projects are worth it.