MONDAY, AUGUST 6, 2018
A project to restore a stream catchment in Kaikōura – damaged in the 2016 earthquake – is being described as
inspirational by NIWA scientists.
Freshwater ecologist Dr Richard Storey praised the group responsible for driving a plan to restore the Lyell
Creek/Waikōau catchment , saying it was an example of how a community dealing with a lot of problems was able to find a
way to achieve something positive.
“It’s fantastic to see a community-led project that will have significant benefits for future generations,” Dr Storey
The catchment has had a number of problems for some time. Environment Canterbury Kaikōura Branch Manager, Kevin Heays,
said in pre-European times it was a swamp but had subsequently become a farming region. The catchment comprises a series
of small, spring-fed steams on the Kaikōura Flats; most dairy farms drain into it as does urban run-off from parts of
Water quality in the stream is considered poor due to a number of reasons, including the historic extensive land
drainage and intensive farming.
A community group, started the restoration process back in the 1990s and had persuaded landowners to fence streams, and
also managed to eradicate an unpleasant smell at the stream mouth in the town whenever it was dredged. Then the 2016
earthquake caused stream banks to slump and springs to develop all over the catchment.
Mr Heays said the Kaikōura Water Zone Committee set up by the Regional Council and comprising community, council and
rūnanga representatives passionate about water in Kaikōura, had also been formed with one of its aims being to get the
water quality back to swimmable.
“This is a highly visible stream that runs through the town and is extremely important for mahinga kai as well as being
highly valued culturally and aesthetically.”
Following the 2016 earthquake, a working group of the Water Zone Committee assisted the local farming community in
successfully securing MPI funding for earthquake recovery - aimed at the farming community on the plains and their
business recovery after the quake. The resulting ‘Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project’ formed with a governance group made
up of local farmers, community members and the rūnanga.
One of the workstreams identified by the group was “whole catchment recovery” and the need for “some solid scientific
research” to help it proceed.
That’s where NIWA came in, contracted by the Kaikoura Plains Recovery Project. Dr Storey and colleague Dr Chris Tanner
first identified the key issues facing the catchment based on assessment and analysis of previous data collected and
talked to people involved with the area.
“It had a drainage system to deal with the existing springs but when it all got shaken up, the overflow from the new
springs flowed into the streams taking contaminants with it. Some temporary fixes were in place but there was a big
problem with water-logging,” Dr Storey said.
The scientists then put forward a range of prioritised steps for improving water quality and habitat, including analysis
of costs, benefits and feasibility.
Dr Storey said NIWA’s restoration plan offered a “menu of options” for the community to implement according to their
priorities and as time and funding permitted.
Practical steps to improve water and habitat quality included dealing with critical areas such as stock access points
and leaks from the sewage system; gradually planting riparian areas starting with places most visible to the community
and constructing walkways and access points.
Kaikōura Plains Recovery Project Manager Jodie Hoggard said: “It is great that the project (MPI Funded) can give the
wider community a good starting point for catchment recovery post-quake.
“The plans we have received from NIWA will far outlive this project and allow a really good collaborative approach, a
clear road map so to speak and for combining funds for best bang for bucks. The farming community will see good gains
from this also, for the issues they are facing, so it’s urban and rural working together on the same issue”.
NIWA also recommended continued monitoring of known issues such as E.coli levels, nutrient concentrations at new springs
and fish numbers and diversity. This could be done by the community using NIWA’s Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment
Kit (SHMAK) that monitors the ecological health of streams use simple but scientifically sound methods.
Mr Heays said the Water Zone Committee had identified several things it wanted to do quickly and it was now prioritising
“Our aim is to get it sorted. We’re not going to muck around anymore.”
Dr Storey says while it is still early days for the implementation of the restoration plan, he has been impressed by the
process so far.
“It has been community-led from the start and really started with local residents writing to the council to say they
wanted to swim in the river again. The council responded by providing support but allowing the community to take the
lead. It’s been a great example and is set to become an asset to the Kaikōura community.”