Article by Te Ao reporter Moana Makapelu Lee.
The Kaipara Harbour is one of NZ's largest estuaries and is clogged with sediment and mangroves.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, “We’re supporting community organisations to help improve the quality so ultimately we’ll be able to swim in our waterways again.”
This year the government provided $229m in its budget as part of its commitment to help improve land use and waterways. Ardern says they are focusing on the Kaipara first, home to some of NZ's rarest ecosystems.
“By choosing to support the work done here, we hope to be able to stop the degradation and then see improvements.”
According to a Northland Regional Council report last year, afforesting 77% of the catchment would reduce the catchment sediment load by 68-88% at a cost of $255 to $331m per year.
Mangakāhia local Tame Te Rangi doubts if provision from the $12m will be enough to support and manage the 640,000ha catchment.
"I'm not sure if that figure was plucked from the sky but that figure will only provide a start, not a resolution to its restoration. If that was how much it was set to receive annually then perhaps we will see restoration in the region."
Environment Minister David Parker says, “This will take a generation to fix, most of the money in the end is going to be spent by farmers as they naturally renew their fences. But this money will go to assisting and encouraging the likes of some of the protections of mini wetlands and restoration of the margins of waterways to filter out the sediment and nutrient.”
Funding will include riparian planting, fencing streams and measuring sediment flows. Parker says they are working with the community to see what can make the greatest difference.
“It’s a combination of better farming practice, protection of the gullies and everyone taking little steps which will mean that the Kaipara, which is many tens of kilometres down the road, doesn’t get filled up with sediments that it is currently.”
Te Rangi says, "Our four local councils have been in discussions with government for two years. The long term goal will not be fulfilled doing it alone. It must be lead by those who have been monitoring it from the start."
The government says further measures will be rolled out in the coming months as it moves to implement its Essential Freshwater Plan.