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Whangawehi Group only NZ finalist in AsiaPac Intnl River Awards

The Whangawehi Catchment Management Group is thrilled to have been nominated as the only New Zealand group to represent the country as a finalist in the prestigious Asia Pacific International River Prize Awards to be held in Sydney this October.

These awards recognise organisations who have achieved strong results on the ground in river restoration and who are sharing their knowledge to achieve greater benefits.  

The Whangawehi Group hopes to represent both New Zealand and the Wairoa community well on the International stage, according to Whangawehi Group Chair Pat O’Brien.

“Winning such a distinguished river award will honour all the hard work undergone so far and be a great extension to being the Supreme Winner at the Green Ribbon Awards last year – the New Zealand Government’s most prestigious environmental award,” says Pat.

The Whangawehi Catchment Management Group is a marae initiative who identified the Whangawehi stream as a sacred river needing protection and enhancement. Under a community-led catchment management plan, the Group has helped landowners to fence off their waterways, revegetate river margins, better manage their soil by establishing soil conservation areas planted in trees and carry out pest control work.  

“The collaborative work of the Group has resulted in the protection of 13 kilometres of river, the establishment of 160,000 native trees on 60 hectares of riparian margins and the retirement of 15 hectares of native bush block,” adds Pat.  

Close monitoring of the work done by the group has revealed a 95% survival rate of plants, an increase in native bird and fish life and a 15% improvement in water quality.  The once nearly extinct whitebait population is now abundant, and the endangered longfin eel has now grown to healthy populations.  

The Group believes their winning edge could be a unique environmental education programme developed locally with Te Mahia School. This was created to transfer local knowledge around Matauranga Maori and indigenous practices.  The community is also hoping that these school children will be the next generation of Kaitiaki (guardians) of the land.    

The flow-on effects are speaking volumes.  A recently announced Mahia Pest Free project in collaboration with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is an extension of the pest management work initiated by the Whangawehi Group. The Group is also in the final stages of talks to develop an extensive walkway through the Whangawehi catchment for both locals and visitors to enjoy. Other projects include the development of a brand to return a premium for any meat products produced under a catchment management plan protecting the waterways.  

Due to the high calibre of strong candidates this year, the awards will be split into two separate categories. The Asian River category includes projects of huge scale such as the Yangtze River in China and the Pasig River in the Philippines. The Whangawehi project competes in the Bert & Vera Thiess Australasian River category alongside projects on Brisbane’s Laidley Creek and Sydney’s Parramata River.  

All three groups in the Australasian category have been credited with achieving incredible outcomes for rivers in a collaborative partnership with their community, sponsors and government agencies.

5 September 2018

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