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Ace idea to improve Southland water

The Southland App

Paul Taylor

21 June 2021, 2:32 AM

Ace idea to improve Southland waterFarmer Wayne Fleck, left, watches Fonterra’s Andy Hunt check water clarity, while Heather Hopcroft holds the tube during the ACE Lower Aparima River Stream Walk

More than 200 people attended a series of autumn Southland stream walks organised by a farmer-led initiative.

The Aparima Community and Environment (ACE) group held six walks across Southland between March and May, testing the water quality and clarity along the way.

ACE aims to empower farmers in six Aparima catchment groups – Pourakino, Lower Aparima, Orepuki, Mid Aparima, Upper Aparima and Waimatuku - to adopt good farming practices to improve their environment.

There are more than 600 farms spread over 207,000 hectares in that area, with 81 per cent of the land developed.

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The three-year project has $421,000 funding through Thriving Southland and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Stream walks and water testing are one of four ACE workstreams - with sediment trap designs, the future of farming and farm environment plans the other areas of focus.

Riverton dairy farmer John White, who oversees the stream walks and water testing workstream, said the six stream walks attracted between 25-30 people to each event.

White said the success of the project was down to the collaboration between everyone involved - with agencies allowing farmers to take the lead - but still being in the loop to filter back information and feedback to help guide groups.

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"We've got a great deal of respect for each other. It's completely dependent on farmer engagement."

The stream walks involved using a SHMAK kit to assess factors such as water clarity, completing a Rapid Habitat Assessment, macroinvertebrate monitoring, and seeing an eDNA test in use.

Highlights included finding huge Dobson Fly Nymphs on the Orepuki, Skinks around the Waimatuku, having lots of kids attend the Pourakino event, and generally the amount of macroinvertebrate life teeming in the catchment’s rivers and streams, White said.

"The streams were bursting with life and we had some great conversations and learnings all round," he said.

Children check out macroinvertebrates during the ACE Stream Walk at Pourakino

Giving people the opportunity to get in the water to find out a bit more about what’s in their streams was invaluable, he said.

"I truly believe most people are visual learners and they learn by doing stuff. What excites me about being a farmer is being outside and seeing all these natural features on a farm."

White said ACE was on track to add 20 water sampling sites at different spots to the 18 Environment Southland operates already in the catchment, which alongside rapid habitat assessments, will give a good indication of water quality across the whole catchment.

"It's a benchmarking tool and that data will be added to Environment Southland’s to give us a full complement of information."

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The next round of stream walks will focus on high value areas including lakes, wetlands and peat wetlands.

“ACE is a unique project in New Zealand because of its scale, and we will have a lot of valuable information and learnings to pass on to other catchment groups around the country,” White said.

“A massive thank-you to all the catchment groups and landowners who participated, Environment Southland, and all the other organisations which helped make the stream walks such fantastic events,” he said.

Developed land in the catchment is comprised of 35% sheep and beef farms, 23% dairy farms, 17% DOC land as well as QE2 Trusts land, wetlands and roading, 11% in pine or exotic forests, the balance is made up of 8% indigenous forests, plus a small amount of cropping.

Participants check out a farm during the ACE Lower Aparima stream walk


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