My arrival back in Invercargill coincided with another successful Invercargill Santa parade last weekend. It is probably dawning on many of us that another year has almost flown by. Why is it that the last month of the year always seems to be the most frenetic?
For the first time in some years Environment Southland had a float in the Invercargill Santa parade, which along with our presence at the Wyndham A&P Show on Saturday, launched the start of our engagement campaign to understand what Southlanders value about freshwater, called “Share Your Wai”.
This will continue right through until March, with staff and councillors going out to various events and asking you to fill out a short survey and offering you the option of going into a prize draw. You can also contribute (and enter) online at www.haveyoursay.es.govt.nz.
This engagement is part of our People, Water and Land programme, which is being developed and delivered in partnership with Te Ao Marama Inc. (the environmental arm of Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku)
The programme has two major planks. One is implementation – getting things happening on the ground.
This will involve staff supporting groups and individuals carrying out a wide range of projects and initiatives that will ultimately and cumulatively have a positive effect on water quality.
The Government’s recent announcement of the One Billion Trees Programme, with financial incentives for planting and fencing native and exotic trees, has the potential to boost the planting of riparian areas, creating or restoring wetlands and plantings in unproductive gullies.
To qualify, the area must be a minimum of one hectare (and in some cases a minimum of 5ha), for an establishment grant of $4000 per hectare for natives and $1500 for exotics.
A guide with the details is available online, www.teururakau.govt.nz or via www.mpi.govt.nz.
The other plank of our People, Water and Land programme revolves around setting up a regional forum. Its role will be to advise our council on ways to meet the communities’ aspirations and objectives for freshwater – through both on-the-ground actions and rules.
In doing so, the forum will need to consider the impacts on the community, plus economic, environmental, cultural and social impacts.
Another important aspect will be advice on the time frame needed to achieve those goals and to inform the limit-setting process for discharges to, and abstractions from, waterways.
We will begin advertising for expressions of interest for potential forum members before Christmas, with the closing date likely to be in early February.
So if you’re interested or know someone who could represent the various views of the community, keep an eye out for the ads or speak to one of our staff or councillors when they are out at community places for the Share Your Wai campaign.
We also plan to have public meetings in the new year to explain the forum’s purpose and encourage people to put their names forward.
The forum’s membership will need to have a good balance that can reflect the views of the entire Southland region rather than representing any particular interest group.
This means forum members will need to be community people who have the time and the ability to carry out the role, and who have the best interests of Southland at heart.
On Thursday I attended the official re-opening of the fourth pot line at the Tiwai aluminium smelter, and the opening of the new venison processing plant at the Alliance farm gate Lorneville site.
These are both very positive milestones for Southland.
One thing they have in common is that they are moving much of their product into high value niche markets, providing the confidence to expand their capacity, which augers well for the future.
As this will be my last column for the year, I would like to wish you a safe and happy Christmas holiday time, where hopefully you will get a few days off before the next year begins.
If we can capture the atmosphere of goodwill and support that was evident at the Invercargill Santa parade I’m sure Southland will be in a good place to handle any challenges the new year brings.
Nicol Horrell is the chair of Environment Southland