Wānaka Sun       

Moving at pace to protect what we all value

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 10 Oct, 2019 | By Julie Perry Upper Clutha Lakes Trust

The government is introducing new rules to prevent any further decline in freshwater quality and to ensure that water quality improves over the next generation. So does that mean we can all sit back and leave them to it?  Not quite. 

Typically, it takes several years for regulation changes to be enacted by central government and flow through to regional and local councils.  The Wānaka Water Project is currently finalising a draft Integrated Catchment Management Plan for the Upper Clutha as a first step towards evidence-based management. Those involved with this project believe that a range of actions are needed sooner rather than later, to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy our waterways as we do today.  

The Upper Clutha is a region of great natural beauty. The catchment includes large areas of conservation estate, where water flows from alpine glaciers and collects in cold, deep lakes before continuing to the sea.  Yet we can't be complacent. Our waterways are no longer as pristine as they appear and face increasing pressures on four fronts: urbanisation, land use change, tourism growth and climate change. We have didymo, lake snow and lagarosiphon affecting lake and river ecosystems and currently have no understanding of the likely future impacts of factors such as more frequent heavy rain events, less snow, warmer weather and new invasive species.

The latest census figures show that Wānaka is one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand. Rapid urban growth offers particular challenges for freshwater management, with grassed areas that previously absorbed rainwater being replaced by bare or impervious surfaces that direct runoff (and pollutants) into stormwater drains that flow straight into our lakes and rivers.  Action is needed to plan for growth, manage its effects and to ensure that the combined impact of land use change, more houses, more cars and more people doesn't automatically lead to degraded water quality. Funding is needed so that research findings can be used to inform future management actions. 

Freshwater underpins our economy, community wellbeing and the health of people, plants, animals and the environment.  Protecting the quality and quantity of water in the Upper Clutha benefits all those who live in or visit our region and everyone downstream of us.  

How you can help

The Wānaka Water Project wants to meet with interested individuals and groups.  Simply contact community@uppercluthalakestrust.org to help ensure that all areas of the Upper Clutha catchment that require special consideration or management have been identified.  

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