Rere water quality showcase

Field Day will feature Rere farming community's work to improve water quality in Wharekopae River.

Field Day will feature Rere farming community's work to improve water quality in Wharekopae River.

FRESH FLOW: Rere Falls after good rain. Farmers in the area have been working hard to improve water quality in the Wharekopae River, which runs through Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls, both of which regularly fall below acceptable water quality level for swimming. They are major attractions for local people and tourists. Picture by Liam Clayton

THE Rere farming community’s hard work to improve water quality in the Wharekopae River will be on display in a public field day next Tuesday.

All 21 farms in the upper Wharekopae sub-catchment have either completed farm environment plans (FEP) or are progressing through them.

FEPs assess ways to improve farms environmentally and economically, including reducing contaminants reaching waterways.

It will be the first sub-catchment in the Gisborne region and possibly the North Island, where every farm has completed an FEP.

Wharekopae River runs through the Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls, major attractions for people in the region and tourists, but both regularly fall below the acceptable water quality level for swimming.

The Rere Falls and Rockslide Water Quality Enhancement Project began with a workshop in September 2015, which led to a series of community meetings to improve water quality.

“It's really cool to see all of the farms either having completed or completing their FEPs,” said Beef + Lamb NZ’s Eastern North Island extension manager Mark Harris.

“It's farmers as part of the community working together to enhance the environment. We want to be able to replicate this in other catchments.”

The commitment of the Rere farming community has attracted attention from the Ministry for the Environment, which is funding research on E.coli economic modelling and social engagement in the project, to help apply it to other catchments.

Beef + Lamb and Gisborne District Council (GDC) will hold the field day to showcase these good results.

The field day will provide an overview of the Water Quality Enhancement Project, addressing farmers’ perspectives, what has been achieved, the results of the E.coli economic model, how the findings affect business as usual, and where to from here.

Beef + Lamb and GDC instigated the Water Quality Enhancement Project to help farmers meet the challenge of increasing productivity while reducing their environmental impacts.

Popular public area

They chose the Rere area to encourage FEPs because it was a popular public area.

“In the initial workshop, farmers shared stories of how the water quality used to be,” Mr Harris said.

“One person spoke about how they used to make whisky using the water. They all spoke about what they were doing and what they could do to get it back to being pristine water.”

Farmers identified the changes that had occurred through human impact and farming, and natural weather events like Cyclone Bola.

A range of speakers in the workshop spoke about introducing systems to match best practice to the land through FEPs, which would improve profitability and be better for the environment.

“With FEPs, often it is simply writing down things that are already in the heads of farmers, or actions they are already doing,” Mr Harris said.

“Once the farmers put in the process they saw there was assistance for them to do more, through GDC, MFE and Beef + Lamb funding. It has been a whole multi-agency approach.”

During the field day farmers will talk about their experiences in the project, farmer-to-farmer.

“We hope this is just a small beginning and starts building out to the other catchments.”

GDC water and coastal resources officer Alice Trevelyan said the project had been a good example for other farmers about doing their FEPs.

“It has been getting interest from farmers in different catchments in the Gisborne district for doing their own FEPs.”

The farmers were willing to be involved and to learn.

“Three farms did water sampling each week for eight months,” Ms Trevelyan said.

“We then talked about different E.coli levels and how different land use and activities can influence E.coli loading. For everyone it has been a cool learning process.”

An economic assessment of E.coli mitigation strategies, and the impact of different mitigation strategies on “business as usual” will be presented at the field day.

Along with the farms, sources of E.coli can include birds and wild goats further up the catchment.

THE Rere farming community’s hard work to improve water quality in the Wharekopae River will be on display in a public field day next Tuesday.

All 21 farms in the upper Wharekopae sub-catchment have either completed farm environment plans (FEP) or are progressing through them.

FEPs assess ways to improve farms environmentally and economically, including reducing contaminants reaching waterways.

It will be the first sub-catchment in the Gisborne region and possibly the North Island, where every farm has completed an FEP.

Wharekopae River runs through the Rere Rockslide and Rere Falls, major attractions for people in the region and tourists, but both regularly fall below the acceptable water quality level for swimming.

The Rere Falls and Rockslide Water Quality Enhancement Project began with a workshop in September 2015, which led to a series of community meetings to improve water quality.

“It's really cool to see all of the farms either having completed or completing their FEPs,” said Beef + Lamb NZ’s Eastern North Island extension manager Mark Harris.

“It's farmers as part of the community working together to enhance the environment. We want to be able to replicate this in other catchments.”

The commitment of the Rere farming community has attracted attention from the Ministry for the Environment, which is funding research on E.coli economic modelling and social engagement in the project, to help apply it to other catchments.

Beef + Lamb and Gisborne District Council (GDC) will hold the field day to showcase these good results.

The field day will provide an overview of the Water Quality Enhancement Project, addressing farmers’ perspectives, what has been achieved, the results of the E.coli economic model, how the findings affect business as usual, and where to from here.

Beef + Lamb and GDC instigated the Water Quality Enhancement Project to help farmers meet the challenge of increasing productivity while reducing their environmental impacts.

Popular public area

They chose the Rere area to encourage FEPs because it was a popular public area.

“In the initial workshop, farmers shared stories of how the water quality used to be,” Mr Harris said.

“One person spoke about how they used to make whisky using the water. They all spoke about what they were doing and what they could do to get it back to being pristine water.”

Farmers identified the changes that had occurred through human impact and farming, and natural weather events like Cyclone Bola.

A range of speakers in the workshop spoke about introducing systems to match best practice to the land through FEPs, which would improve profitability and be better for the environment.

“With FEPs, often it is simply writing down things that are already in the heads of farmers, or actions they are already doing,” Mr Harris said.

“Once the farmers put in the process they saw there was assistance for them to do more, through GDC, MFE and Beef + Lamb funding. It has been a whole multi-agency approach.”

During the field day farmers will talk about their experiences in the project, farmer-to-farmer.

“We hope this is just a small beginning and starts building out to the other catchments.”

GDC water and coastal resources officer Alice Trevelyan said the project had been a good example for other farmers about doing their FEPs.

“It has been getting interest from farmers in different catchments in the Gisborne district for doing their own FEPs.”

The farmers were willing to be involved and to learn.

“Three farms did water sampling each week for eight months,” Ms Trevelyan said.

“We then talked about different E.coli levels and how different land use and activities can influence E.coli loading. For everyone it has been a cool learning process.”

An economic assessment of E.coli mitigation strategies, and the impact of different mitigation strategies on “business as usual” will be presented at the field day.

Along with the farms, sources of E.coli can include birds and wild goats further up the catchment.

Field Day details

The field day is next Tuesday, March 21, at the Worsnops’ farm, 3643 Wharekopae Road Rere, starting with a morning tea at 10.30am.

You need to bring your own lunch.

Contact Penny Munro (Beef + Lamb NZ) on 06 870 3497 to register.

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