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River awards

Environment Canterbury has welcomed the announcement that a waterway in the Hurunui-Waiau zone has won the Cawthron Foundation supreme award for the most improved river in New Zealand.

A Canterbury student project was a finalist in the new “River Story” award category.

Pahau River took the major accolade, determined by long-term improvement in a specific water quality indicator, E. coli.

Accepting the award in Wellington together with Amuri Irrigation Collective (AIC) Chair David Croft, Environment Canterbury Acting Chair Steve Lowndes said it was always encouraging to receive an award recognising improved water quality outcomes and the hard work that goes into achieving them.

“This is the second piece of good news we’ve had,” he said. “The other was the Freshwater Quality report which demonstrated steady improvement for the last three years.”

“AIC is to be congratulated for its move away from border dyke to spray irrigation, which is delivering multiple benefits. I’d also like to acknowledge the work of the Pahau Landcare Group, which early on identified the need to reduce the effect of border dyke bywash and runoff.

“It’s good to see irrigation being used not only as insurance against drought, but also as a management tool helping to maximise productivity and to promote better water quality.

“We recognise, however, that there is much more to be done in this catchment in particular and the Amuri Basin in general to address nutrient levels. Environment Canterbury, water zone committees and primary sector organisations are working hard to promote good management practices and technological advances leading ultimately to improved water quality outcomes.”

Pahau River is the largest lowland stream in the Amuri Basin in North Canterbury. A change from border dyke to spray irrigation has been accelerated in the last year with the AIC-led piping project.

This $85 million project has replaced 106 kilometres of open water races with 131 kilometres of pipe. Only 1% of the Amuri Irrigation Scheme remains as border dyke.

The AIC piping allows the company to allocate three more cubic metres of consented water that was previously lost to leakage and bywash. This will allow AIC’s irrigated area to increase by 6,000 hectares to 28,000 hectares.

The Cawthron Foundation has also identified stories where individuals, groups, businesses and communities are working together to make a positive difference to the health of our rivers and streams.

The story of local students wishing to improve īnanga (whitebait) conditions in the Heathcote/Ōpāwaho and Avon/Ōtākaro rivers was a River Story Award finalist.

The Christchurch West Melton Water Zone Committee supported this project through Immediate Steps funding, facilitating a delegation and supporting a celebration on the river.

Changes to river bank spawning habitats meant īnanga spawning had been declining for a long time in Christchurch. Damage from the 2011 earthquakes caused further decline.

The students studied possible reasons for this decline and what could be done to improve the situation. They then presented their findings to Christchurch City Council.

Sixteen schools participated in the project and the students worked with their community and iwi.

“These are excellent examples of the collaborative Canterbury Water Management Strategy in action,” Steve Lowndes said. “There is much left to do – and we will succeed if we all work together.”

Source: Environment Canterbury

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