Once upon a time rivers had large amounts of scrub on either side which provided protection against flooding and erosion but changes in land use has made productive farmland vulnerable to these natural events, says Jane Leahy of the Otago Regional Council.
This has been one of the catalysts for the formation of a pilot scheme called The North Otago River Form and Function group who met for the first time in October 2013 and includes farmers in the Kakanui and Kauru Hill areas.
Farmer, Mark Lawrence, said gravel build-up and erosion has been an issue for farmers on the river for the last five-seven years and the regional council has now come on board with what is hoped to be a ‘common sense approach’.
Mr Lawrence said some gravel consents have been issued to appropriate businesses and discussions have been held with council to reduce bank erosion from small-moderate floods. On Friday he received a large bundle of willow poles from council to plant out river banks.
Following a community meeting in July ORC chief executive, Peter Bodeker, said in a report to council that staff were engaging with landowners and interested parties to describe the desired form and function for rivers. The objective, he said, is to establish a protocol for what intervention or management, if any, ORC may take in assisting landowners in protecting land that bounds a river.
Ms Leahy said this included asking what farmers expected from the river, how they wanted it to look and how they want to use it.
“What came out of those discussions was some mixed views on what people are wanting from the river,” she said.
“Some people are wanting a winding river with trees along the edge and some people want a river that is predictable with clear flows.”
“We’re wanting to achieve a river management programme that’s going to reflect the wider community.”
Ms Leahy confirmed council was playing a role in consenting for gravel removal and the removal of trees to keep the main channels open.
ORC councillor, Doug Brown, said farmers with properties adjoining the rivers from the Five Forks area down were involved in the discussion.
By LINDA MCCARTHY