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Community-led water action

September 13 2021 by Julie Perry

Community-led water action

Shaping our Future’s Whakatipu Water Taskforce presented their final report this week, which sets out key recommendations towards achieving the community’s freshwater vision for the Whakatipu.

Shaping our Future helps to shape the future of our district by advocating to governing bodies such as Queenstown Lakes District Council and Otago Regional Council.  Shaping our Future uses a proven process of café-style forums, followed by the creation of a community taskforce to research and discuss a wide range of information, to generate recommendations that reflect community consensus. 

Forums held in 2018 on the topic of freshwater led to the creation of water taskforces in both Whakatipu and Wānaka. The Wānaka report contained recommendations in three key areas; Leadership and Management, Community Culture and Research and Monitoring.

The Whakatipu taskforce’s vision is for freshwater to exist in its natural state, support and sustain life and wellbeing, and demonstrate resilience. The report looks at what is impacting on our waterways today and identifies actions that can be taken to achieve this vision.

The challenges identified in the report highlight both the needs of the water and the needs of the community. The challenges for water include contamination from rural and urban runoff, the clearance of land around waterways, drainage of wetland areas, development of areas that were previously farmland, contamination from wastewater, impacts on native species, water extraction and invasive organisms. 

The challenges for the community include protecting natural water flows, fostering a community culture where water is valued in its natural state, ensuring infrastructure is fit for purpose, maintaining both recreation and economic benefits, ensuring that land use change is closely managed and developing policies and plans that prioritise the needs of the water.

The report identifies an urgent need for the development of an active, community inclusive water management process, supported by appropriate levels of research to better understand the catchments and aquatic ecosystems in the Whakatipu Basin.  The critical recommendation is for the formation of a new group comprised of key stakeholders, tasked with developing a Whakatipu Freshwater Management Plan.

Both water taskforces are consistent in their recommendations for the Upper Clutha and Whakatipu basins. The Wānaka water taskforce noted that achieving their long-term vision of “Pure Water, Healthy Eco-systems, Engaged Community” would involve regulatory agencies, land owners, national and local organisations, business owners, tourist operators, residents and visitors. Similarly, the Whakatipu water taskforce report suggests that a district wide collaboration and integration approach is needed.

It will take all of us working together to safeguard the future of our waterways and protect what we all value. Urgency, expertise, education and effort now will clear the way for a cleaner and more pristine future for our water and its users.

The Whakatipu and Wānaka taskforce reports can be viewed on Shaping our Future’s website

Julie Perry, Shaping our Future Board Member

- Julie Perry