General news

Judging is underway to determine which rivers show the greatest long-term improvement
21 September 2017

Water heroes will be celebrated at the 2017 New Zealand River Awards

Cawthron Foundation announces that the key note speaker for the 2017 NZ River Awards is Hon Karlene Maywald, advisor to the private and public sector on water issues in Australia and Asia.

“Water belongs to us all and we must work together and share this most important resource,” says Maywald. “This lesson was reinforced when I helped progress national reforms to the management of the Murray Darling Basin and set the direction for long term water security in South Australia. Maywald has learnt that “the complexities of water management and conflict between competing demands constantly test the robustness of decision making and ability to implement long-term planning."

She sees many parallels in the debate being played out in New Zealand and is keen to share her experiences. “We have a battle between the demands for productive water use and the need for environmental water to sustain the health of our rivers. Upstream communities argue that too much water is being taken out of production for the environment and downstream communities argue that the environment needs more. Economists argue tax payer dollars invested in returning water to the environment is inefficient and scientists argue that planning hasn’t delivered on the expected environmental outcomes.” 

At the Awards evening, the Most Improved River Awards, which recognise the most improved rivers in each region and nationally, will be announced. Judging is currently underway by scientists from three leading research institutions to determine which rivers show the greatest long-term improvement based on a specific water quality indicator. Each year a different indicator is used, and 2017 uses e-coli levels. The winners are determined using monitoring data from the Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA.org.nz) database.

Most improved rivers – regionally and nationally – will be announced at the Awards evening

Another highlight at the dinner will be the best New Zealand River Stories, which celebrate the contributions of our young people. “Rivers are important to all Kiwis and there are many inspiring stories about projects involving community collaboration, science and other innovative ways to address freshwater-related challenges,” says the River Story Judge, journalist and natural history author, Gerard Hutching.

“All the 2017 entries are magnificent examples of individuals, communities, organisations and businesses doing something positive for local waterways.” The three most inspiring stories are:

  • Hawkes Bay: Te Kaha Hawaikirangi is 30-years old and has spent years leading the charge to restore the Tutaekuri River in Hawkes Bay after being inspired by work done by other hapu on a nearby river. He knows restoration will take a long time, but is heartened by the big turnouts; a hundred plus people generally turn up to help on planting days and many are rangatahi, or young people.
  • Canterbury: Children from 16 schools are working with local community and iwi to bring back the whitebait/īnaka to the Heathcote/ Ōpāwaho and Avon/Ōtākaro Rivers. Changes to river bank spawning habitat meant that īnaka have been in decline for some time and the 2011 earthquakes caused further damage. This work is proving successful, with straw bales nurturing over 1.5 million eggs in the Heathcote/ Ōpāwaho River during 2016.
  • Otago: Ten years ago, university students took their research out of the classroom into the Kauru River. They wanted to see how freshwater ecosystems respond to multiple agricultural stresses, as well as climate change and rising water temperatures. This project is resulting in improved freshwater management and the technology they developed has been commercialised for use in Asia and Europe.

Invitations will shortly be sent out for the 2017 NZ River Awards dinner and ceremony being held in Wellington later this year on 23 November.

Hon Karlene Maywald will be the key note speaker at the 2017 NZ River Awards dinner