Working together to protect our water quality

By Sandrine Marrassé and Jacquie Walters

by dpadmin on 3rd November 2016

Water quality is a pressing issue for communities around New Zealand. One of the contributing factors to diminished water quality is fine sediment. Sedimentation is a natural process in which sand, silt and clay, transported in the water, come to rest on the riverbed, forming a solid layer. While sediment in our waterways is a natural occurrence, levels that are too high can cause harm within natural ecosystems.

Human land use activities around waterways, such as road construction, farming, urban development and forest harvesting activities, can suddenly increase the amount of fine sediment that enters the system and have detrimental effects on water quality and the plants and animals that live there.

Nelson Management Ltd. (NML*) invited experts from around the country to come together to discuss sedimentation and its relationship to forestry activity, ahead of its upcoming Environmental Management System review.

NML extended an invitation to attend the workshop event to a wide range of agencies including Ngāti Toa o Rangatira, Nelson, Marlborough and Tasman District Councils, universities, Cawthron Institute, the Ministry of Primary Industries, science institutes, Fish & Game, other forest owners and the company’s own contractors, and Crown Research Institutes such as Landcare Research, Scion and NIWA. NML’s Estate Value Manager Andy Karalus says the company is aware of sedimentation concerns amongst both specialists in that area of environmental management and the wider community, and initiated the workshop after reading media coverage that conflicted with the company’s monitoring results.

“The coverage was pointing the finger at forestry as being responsible for excess sediment in coastal waterways,” says Andy. “I compared this with the freshwater monitoring that we do in catchments, which shows pine plantations generally deliver high quality water, and couldn’t reconcile the two. We decided to get everyone in the room together and see if we could learn something.”

NML contracted an independent facilitator to guide discussions at the workshop with the aim of developing joint priorities for further work informed by a varied group of opinions – from forestry industry proponents and critics of forestry alike.

Workshop attendees were invited to contribute to the agenda beforehand, present to the group and collaborate on potential solutions. The workshop was held over two days and included field trips to some of NML’s active harvesting sites, presentations from attendees, group discussions and Q and A sessions.

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