Last night the International RiverFoundation announced the winner of the inaugural Morgan Foundation New Zealand Riverprize. The Riverprize honours projects that protect and restore our rivers through integrated basin management – in other words they must manage the issues across the catchment.
And the winner is:
Aorere River in the Tasman District
The Aorere catchment area is home to over 13,000 cows and 35 dairy farms. Over time the growth in these farms led to the local Aorere River suffering from serious bacterial contamination. This had a negative impact on aquaculture including the mussel and cockle farms in the Ruataniwha estuary.
This problem was tackled by a farmer led project, supported by New Zealand Landcare Trust. These two sets of farming cousins – both on land and sea – and the rest of the rural community came together collaboratively to solve their problems.
Practical solutions to the problem included excluding stock from waterways, using new bridges and riparian fencing. These solutions are now being implemented on all dairy farms (and some sheep and beef farms too) around the country to reduce bacteria and sediment in our rivers and lakes. This nationwide change is partly a testament to the success of the pioneering Aorere initiative.
New Zealand Landcare Trust has played a lead role in bringing together different stakeholders to set up the Aorere Catchment Group. The willingness of dairy farmers to tackle issues caused by their practices – with 24 farms developing farm plans and over $1.6 million invested in on-farm best management practices has been an amazing achievement.
According to Stuff, New Zealand Landcare Trust’s Chief Executive Nick Edgar commented:
“I would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the trust’s staff and trustees to this mission. Special recognition goes to our Nelson-Marlborough regional co-ordinator, Barbara Stuart, for a lifetime’s commitment to supporting the rural community, in particular, the farmers in the Aorere River catchment… It has been a privilege for the trust to work with these forward- thinking farmers and to have been supported by the Tasman District Council, the dairy industry and Golden Bay shellfish farmers on this initiative.”
The project has improved the ecological health of the Aorere river and coastal environment. This in turn has improved the sense of community in the area, helped dairy and marine farmers to coexist and maintain their livelihoods sustainably, and transferred knowledge to others catchments across New Zealand.
The New Zealand Riverprize is run by the International RiverFoundation and is judged by an independent panel. In addition to Aorere there were three other finalists: Lake Taupo (Waikato Regional Council), the Manawatu River (Horizons Council) and Project Twin Streams (Auckland Council). As winner Aorere will receive a $20,000 cash prize from the Morgan Foundation and are now in the running for the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize in 2016.
Good luck Aorere and New Zealand Landcare Trust!