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River Award recognises farmers' efforts to improve water quality

Land & Water

Northland dairy farmer Shayne O’Shea, who farms on Kokopu Road at Mangere, northwest of Whangarei, is delighted that community efforts over the past 10 years to improve water quality have been recognised by a NZ River Award.

Brother and sister Shayne & Charmaine O’Shea are equity partners in their farm which borders the Mangere Stream.

Brother and sister Shayne & Charmaine O’Shea are equity partners in their farm which borders the Mangere Stream.

In addition to awards for the three most improved rivers nationally, the judges also identified the most improved river in each region where suitable data was available. The Mangere Stream at Knight Road was the Northland region winner recording a 14.5% improvement based on the long-term decline in dissolved reactive phosphorus levels (an important indicator of water quality, especially with respect to the ecological health of the river).

This substantial improvement is the result of a joint effort between a catchment group made up of iwi, farmers, environmental groups, residents and the Whangarei District Council who have worked together to identify steps that everyone can take to improve the quality of the waterway.

Farmer representative Shayne O’Shea says that 18 of the 19 farmers in the Mangere catchment have completed significant upgrades of their dairy effluent systems in the past seven years.

"We put in a new effluent system in 2012, but since we moved here in 1998 we have been making gradual improvements to our property. I have zero tolerance for pugging - even putting the cows on the stand-off pad in the middle of the night, if necessary. I’ve also changed my fertiliser to a slow release phosphate which is less likely to end up in the waterways. Other landowners in the catchment are taking similar steps.

Mangere Stream Northland

Mangere Stream

"We are also maintaining and enhancing a 2ha wetland area that runs right through the middle of the farm and feeds into the Mangere Stream. It is a lovely natural feature of the property."

Co-chair for the catchment group, fellow dairy farmer Royce Kokich has appreciated the opportunity to better understand what the river means to others.

"As a group we have spent a lot of time listening to each other and I’ve developed a whole new level of respect and understanding for the depth of care and concern people have for our river," Royce says.

"We know that riparian planting helps to control stream bank erosion and prevents sediment from going into streams."

Well managed waterways benefit the farm, water quality, wildlife and the broader environment.

Recognition that the NZ River Award gives is a real boost to dairy farmers in the catchment," says Royce.

Two Canterbury rivers - the Otukaikino and Cam - took out 1st and 3rd place for the most improved rivers in the country. The Oroua River in the Manawatu was the 2nd most improved river in New Zealand.

The awards are sponsored by the Morgan Foundation.

For further details visit http://nzriverawards.org.nz

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