Introducing the BFEA Catchment Group Award Entrants from Otago and Southland


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Meet the 2022 Catchment Group Award Entrants for the Otago and Southland regions Ballance Farm Environment Awards. 

The New Zealand Farm Environment Trust (NZFET) is delighted to announce the Catchment Group Award Entrants for the Otago and Southland regions Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

The Catchment Group Award is supported by a new partnership between the NZ Farm Environment Trust and NZ Landcare Trust and is designed to showcase and celebrate the great work being done by catchment groups throughout the country.

“We are pleased to introduce this new Catchment Group award that recognises the efforts of a rural community working together to improve water quality in local rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands,” said NZ Farm Environment Trust Chair Joanne van Polanen. “This new initiative has been well supported throughout the country with catchment groups from north to south participating in this year’s awards programme. It is great to be able to share the great work they are doing and inspire others.”

The Catchment Group Awards winners will be announced at the upcoming regional Ballance Farm Environment Awards functions in June and July. Dates are available here.

Otago Entrants:

North Otago Sustainable Land Management Inc (NOSLaM)

Reinstating an initial group formed in the 1990s by North Otago farmers, NOSLaM was reinvigorated in 2013 by like-minded farmers and stakeholders to rise to the challenge of land and water management. 

NOSLaM has become a Catchment Group driven by farmers focused on improving water quality and promoting good soil and animal management. A large part of their ethos is driving a heightened understanding between farmers and the wider community – bringing everyone ‘around the table’ to come up with solutions that are fit for purpose and take a long term, intergenerational view on improving water quality and promoting good soil and animal management. Their vision statement isTo have an environment that we are proud of, a vibrant community and strong agriculture in North Otago.”

The NOSLaM group has 305 farmer members with approximately 90% of farmers in the Awamoko, Waiareka and Kakanui areas (dryland and irrigated) and 100% of the Lower Waitaki Irrigation company’s members with an increasing number of dryland farmer members and wider community stakeholders.

The group is focused on four pillars that define their strategy involving on-farm change, connectivity, science and technology and future-proofing. Some of their key achievements under these pillars include farmers setting up their own annual water testing program in the Friston and Battersby Streams, delivering workshops targeting topics including critical source areas, winter grazing and irrigation efficiency. Over the past three years, total riparian planting including Jobs For Nature and other projects, will have exceeded 44,750sqm with over 36,500 plants being put in the ground across 19 planting sites. NOSLaM’s ethos is to have a number of planting projects throughout the region, rather than one flagship area –  in order to partner with schools, farmers and voluntary clubs  as guardians for each area. NOSLaM also works closely with Waitaki Girls’ High School Ag and EnviroAg students including visits to farms and discussing farming roles in a pilot programme that they hope to role out to other schools. 

The group were inspired to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to help build awareness and engagement by promoting and broadcasting their achievements with other communities. The Ballance Farm Environment Awards are also an opportunity for them to learn, showcase, acknowledge and grow as a catchment group.

Pomahaka WaterCare Group Inc – West and South Otago

What started as a chat in the local tavern with like-minded farmers has now grown to have 183 members, covering more than half of the Pomahaka catchment.

The community was motivated by concerns with the water quality of the Pomahaka River. The catchment group’s aim is for the Pomahaka River to be recognised as having the highest water quality so that future generations can enjoy the river.

A project is currently underway with the aim of undertaking stock exclusion of 100kms of tributaries throughout the catchment, combined with planting over 228,000 native riparian plants. Other achievements include a large wetland restoration project, sediment mitigation initiatives, the restoration of a local picnic area and provision of native plants from their plant nursery. 

The group also provide farmer support with an established best practice peer support team to help improve environmental practices in the catchment. They also actively promote good management practices through marketing alongside industry groups on environmental projects and to promote the use of Farm Environmental Plans.

The catchment group entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to help them continue to share their message of the importance of local ownership of environmental issues, and to showcase how they can be addressed. They also hope to reach other landowners in their catchment who are not yet engaged with the group.

WAI Wānaka – Wānaka 

WAI Wānaka was built on collaboration through the merging of three aligned organisations in 2018: Lake Wānaka Trust, The Upper Clutha Water Group and a group looking to establish an Alpine Lakes Research and Education Centre. 

Their mission is “Healthy ecosystems and community wellbeing for future generations.” The mission is delivered by working together and empowering communities to understand their water, their environment and their impact.

In 2019 WAI Wānaka established five action groups in the Upper Lakes rohe – Cardrona, Maungawera, Lake Hāwea, Luggate and Whakatipu – to work with landowners and businesses and support on the ground action including water testing, regenerative farming, riparian planting, farm plans, biodiversity monitoring and wetland restoration. Today, they are actively engaging with 84% of the larger farms in the Upper Clutha catchment, involving more than 60 properties greater than 20 Ha.

When the government announced the Jobs for Nature funding programme in May 2020, WAI Wānaka recognised the opportunity to utilise their whole-of-basin planning approach to support interconnected environmental, sustainability, economic and social resilience outcomes. They secured $3 million to employ 15 full-time staff over three years to undertake environmental activities on farm properties in the Upper Clutha. Over the last 18 months, the number of people working for WAI Wānaka has increased from five to 44, supplemented by over 5,000 volunteer hours contributing to their mahi each year.

With guidance and input from across the basin combining experts, community groups, landowners, contractors and regulators, WAI Wānaka has developed interconnected strategies and trained field crews to carry out weed control, animal pest control, planting, plant maintenance and biodiversity and freshwater monitoring on farms. 

WAI Wānaka entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards for the opportunity to share their work with others and hope they may inspire catchment groups in other communities to connect more broadly and work collaboratively to achieve their goals. The Awards also provide opportunities for them to learn from other catchment groups around New Zealand.

Southland Entrants:

Mid Oreti Catchment Group

In 2019, three locals took up the idea of reinvigorating this catchment group, and made it happen. The original trio are still at the heart of the group today whose purpose is to “connect, educate, inspire and support the community to be well informed and make great decisions that look after and benefit their land, water and people.”

All are welcome to be involved with this group, with members coming from all backgrounds. The catchment covers farming and Winton areas and brings together farmers, rural professionals and community members.

Over the past two years, the group have run innovative field days on sediment bunds and a composting barn, along with practical grow your own native sessions and stream health workshops. They also started a Marshalls Creek Enhancement project running through the heart of Winton, including showing locals how to use the simple Rapid Habitat Assessment technique to work out stream health. The group have also held a Winton Stream eDNA and water quality testing demonstration showing a variety of ways to take water samples using plastic bottles and a probe and have supported the Thriving Southland Women’s Enviro Series and Aquavan Discovering our Coastal and Catchment Connections project. They have started their Mid Oreti Mini Forest Movement; a project which is growing plants from local seeds, and planting these back into the community. They have run a series of workshops around native seed collection and planting which has had a great turnout.

The Mid Oreti Catchment Group were encouraged to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to showcase the energy and enthusiasm of this group and what they have achieved. They want to share with others the huge potential that catchments groups have to make lasting grassroots change that brings communities together to get things done. They also want to gather some tips and ideas from others for future events and projects and have the opportunity to link up with groups across the country to share ideas and knowledge.

Pourakino Catchment Conservation Trust 

Founded in 2014, Pourakino Catchment Conservation Trust is one of the longest standing catchment groups in Southland, and was formed after a group of farmers joined together to have a meaningful voice and address sediment issues in the Riverton Estuary. 

The group’s immediate focus is on the four key areas of minimising sediment runoff, improving waterway management, improving nutrient management, and improving the public perception of agriculture. A longer-term goal is to ensure that local farmers are well informed and able to make the best management decisions based on good data. 

Pourakino has involvement from nearly all farmers in the catchment. One of their major achievements has been ensuring 85% of landholders in the Pourakino Catchment Group area have farm environment management plans. The group were proud winners of the 2016 Environment Southland Councillors Special Award. 

They have also hosted popular field days on the use of soil mapping programmes as well as holding a field day at Oraka Aparima Runaka Marae where they viewed their nursery and discussed how the two groups would work together to grow and plant trees in the catchment.

The group was inspired to enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to demonstrate what a group of farmers working together collaboratively can achieve. They hope to inspire other groups with ideas and to gain valuable feedback from the judges.


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