The Southland Times

ACE idea to improve water quality

- Tony Benny

Farmers in the Aparima River catchment in Southland are working together to improve water quality by adopting good management practices that sharply reduce the amount of sediment leaving their farms and entering waterways.

There are more than 600 land managers in the 207,000ha catchment, including dairy farmers, sheep and beef farmers and forestry, all of whom play a part in the health of the water that flows from the hills and mountains, across the plains and out to sea at Riverton.

Farmers have joined industry groups DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand as well as Environmen­t Southland to form the Aparima Community and Environmen­t project (ACE), aiming to improve the environmen­t while at the same time remaining profitable.

‘‘I’ve found that these folk understand that water quality is the barometer of what’s happening out on the land,’’ says ACE’s independen­t chairman Robin Campbell.

‘‘Water quality reflects stewardshi­p of the land and that appears to me to be motivating these folk.’’

There are six smaller catchment groups within the Aparima catchment which were originally formed to advocate for farmers during the submission­s process for Environmen­t Southland’s Land and Water Plan but which have evolved to be more concerned about what farmers can do to reduce runoff of sediment, phosphorus and E. coli into waterways.

The Aparima feeds the Jacobs River estuary at Riverton, where public concern about water quality was rising.

‘‘The challenges the estuary faced were being talked about in a public forum and I think initially from farmers there was a degree of denial but as we gained more understand­ing of what those challenges were, we’ve become clearer that we do have an influence on what’s happening and we can influence the outcomes,’’ says ACE leadership group member Ewen Mathieson.

One of the biggest contributo­rs of sediment in waterways is runoff from winter grazing blocks so farmers are being encouraged to make some simple changes to reduce this including grazing hillsides from the top rather than from the bottom so that any runoff is captured by vegetation rather than carrying on downhill.

It’s been shown in trial work at Telford agricultur­al institute that runoff can be reduced by up to 90 per cent by doing this. Other measures could include riparian planting, timing of fertiliser applicatio­n and managing critical source areas.

‘‘There’s a range of things that we can do that are win-win; it is a win for the farmer if he keeps his valuable soil at home and a win

 ??  ?? Edwin Mabongo, Robin Campbell, Ewen Mathiewson and Chris Paterson are part of the Aparima Community and Environmen­t project.
Edwin Mabongo, Robin Campbell, Ewen Mathiewson and Chris Paterson are part of the Aparima Community and Environmen­t project.
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