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Catherine Delahunty: My Mataura River visit

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, June 6th, 2017 - 8 comments
Categories: Environment, farming, Maori Issues, sustainability, water - Tags: , ,

This is a repost from the Green Party blog

On June 1st the Greens swimmable rivers tour visited the Mataura river and communities connected to it.

All we need now is a Government willing to set clear strong rules and support the new conversation about measuring our success by the health of our rivers.

We started our day at the Mataura river bridge with Rewi Anglem of Ngai Tahu. Rewi has led the creation of the first modern freshwater mataitai (reserve for restoration and customary use) in Aotearoa New Zealand. Rewi explained that the mataitai with its native tree plantings was placed along the stretch of river which has suffered the most from industrial discharges.

The Mataura was once the drain for the tannery, paper mill and freezing works. Now only the freezing works remains but the white scum on the river showed us that this is still unfinished business.

Rewi has involved local schools and two local prison communities in revegetating the river banks in the mataitai. Everyone involved hopes that over time the eels, kanakana (lamprey), and native birds will return to the mighty Mataura.

Rewi explained that the biggest challenge now is not pollution from Mataura town. Diffuse agricultural pollution is affecting the Mataura and many smaller tributaries because of the huge conversion to dairying in Southland, as well as large numbers of beef cattle and sheep farm.

After visiting the mataitai we went to meet the children of Glenham School who have an outdoor classroom at a creek on Clark’s farm.

Glenham School - Mataura River Visit

The Clark family, who are very passionate about restoring waterways, have given the school a stream to study and restore and the children described their adventure with water quality and biodiversity.  This very small rural school is inspiring a new generation of students to value and protect fresh water.

We then met with the Chairperson and CEO of the Southland Regional Council for a lively exchange of views about how we can protect Mataura and other rivers from pollution from the current farming model.

Their Land and Water Plan has recognised that some soil types are unsuitable for dairy conversion however there is a long way to go if rivers are to be swimmable for all living creatures. The landscapes of Southland are green but not exactly alive with biodiversity and native trees, some of it looks like a green desert based on a high volume of milk production.

Later at the public meeting local dairy farmer David Diprose and local environmental leader Robert Guyton inspired an audience of about 70 people to “end the war on nature” and start making changes on farms that will stop polluting water.

They talked about foods that could be produced based on what would suit the environment not the commercial banks. The audience discussion was great because catchment groups, farmers, environmentalists and activists were all talking about how rivers like Mataura could be healthy if people worked together.

There was much discussion about words like “collaboration “and “best practice” which can either be genuine power sharing and accountability or business as usual with a bit of fencing and planning on the side.

My feeling was that this community was further ahead than the Government in their willingness to engage with each other. Farmers like David Diprose are looking hard at themselves and embracing change, Tangata whenua are leading restoration and research.

All we need now is a Government willing to set clear strong rules and support the new conversation about measuring our success by the health of our rivers.

8 comments on “Catherine Delahunty: My Mataura River visit ”

  1. 808state 1

    I was reading Forest and Bird last night. Depressing, article after article.

    All rivers should have a planted margin to filter run off, seems a fairly easy plan to implement.

  2. Ad 2

    Pretty surprising that she didn’t comment on the massive milk plant now going up nearby:


    70% Chinese owned, this is the biggest single investment near Mataura or Gore for many, many years.

    It’s also a welcome opportunity for a few of the 200+ people who were laid off from the Mataura Alliance sheep processing plant some time ago. Which devastated Mataura.

    Winston of course made a connection between the sellout of Silver Fern Farms full New Zealand control last year, to the paltry 20% local supplier shareholding in the new $100m dairy plant:


    I’m all in for MP’s sitting with Primary School students telling them about planting flax around streams.

    But for my money, Winston is better at grappling with the political and economic forces at play there.

    • weka 2.1

      Old paradigm Ad, pitting economics and jobs against the environment as if jobs and economies aren’t utterly dependent upon the environment. Have a proper look at Green Party policy which integrates those things.

      I think your patronising minimisation of Delahunty’s work is off too.

      • Ad 2.1.1

        Well, if I’d seen anything in Catherine’s post that showed she had the faintest idea that the “old paradigm” had some relationship with “Green policy which integrates those things” there would have been no need to comment would there?

        Instead, on the horizon from where she was workshopping her pictures, a $100 million factory dedicated to dairy production was raising steel girders 6 storeys into the air, digging its service trenches, and getting ready to roll in less than a year.

        It’s a scale of economic activity and investment that is a pretty glaring omission, if a local MP visiting the area wanted to “integrate” anything.

        • weka

          That’s not her portfolio Ad. It would be like saying someone visiting the area looking at te reo should have written about that in the context of the local milk factory and put it in the context of economics. Which would have been interesting, but there’s only so much room in a post, can’t fit everything in, or cover all perspectives.

          I’d be interested to see you put your original comment in the context of the Mataura River and what she wrote about her visit.

    • Hi, Ad. I spent much of the day with Catherine and may be able to expand your view about her effectiveness here in Southland. Firstly, where you say,
      “I’m all in for MP’s sitting with Primary School students telling them about planting flax around streams.”, I think you miss the point somewhat; those students are already fully engaged with the planting of the mataitai alongside of the Mataura River in cooperation with Hokonui runaka under Rewi Anglem and Catherine’s visit there wasn’t to tell them, but to do various other things that her position offers, such as drawing media’s attention to the cooperation that exists between the conservative rural school, the runaka with mana whenua, and environmentalism, along with politics – worthwhile, imo. Catherine also spent some seriously intense time meeting with the CEO and chairman of the regional council where she applied considerable pressure around the councils direction and focus regarding water issues; I know, I was there at the meeting. Later in the day, she facilitated the very successful public meeting at which a exceptionally broad range of people from across the community discussed their progress with water quality issues, generating a state of understanding and mutual support such as I’ve never experienced before; it was strikingly successful, in my view and a political meeting “out of the box”, the details of which I would happily share with you, were I not rushing to go to a meeting right now. To sum up, I reckon your criticism of Catherine, while having some substance, is misplaced in this instance, or at least is inappropriate. Cheers.

      • garibaldi 2.2.1

        Thank you Robert. Full marks to Catherine for her on the ground work up here in the Waikato too.

  3. gsays 3

    What a great positive story.
    Good politics, involving children getting their hands ‘dirty’, getting key stake holders in the tent.
    Well done ms Delahunty, ‘our own’ Mr guyton and others.

    It is possible the Chinese factory was not mentioned so as to keep the efforts positive.

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