The Otago Regional Council (ORC) has worked with the local community, the Manuherekia Reference Group (MRG), and Kai Tahu to develop five scenarios for managing the Manuherekia river going forward, and these scenarios are now being taken to the broader community for their feedback.
ORC is hosting drop-in sessions in Alexandra and Omakau on 27 and 28 May to present a range of scenarios and invite feedback on which, if any, members of the community prefer and why. A webpage has also been set up to gather online feedback until 18 June.
Each scenario is based on a different minimum flow in the river and how it affects the range of values the community identified.
General Manager Strategy, Policy and Science Gwyneth Elsum encouraged anyone interested in the future management of the Manuherekia River to consider the scenarios and have their say.
“At the drop-in sessions in Alexandra and Omakau we will be giving presentations, have technical information available, and will have people on hand to answer any questions. If the drop-in sessions don’t suit, then we encourage people go to our website where they can access the same information and have their say. Community feedback on the water management scenarios will be invaluable for ORC’s development of the Manuherekia Rohe section of Otago’s new Land and Water Regional Plan.
“We’ve heard the community’s values for the Manuherekia, which include the health of the river and being able to swim, fish, and collect mahika kai, as well as its importance as a reliable water source for crops and business. Now we’d like to hear which of the five scenarios, if any, people prefer to achieve those values,” Ms Elsum said.
Details for the drop-in sessions are as follows:
Alexandra Community Centre / Memorial Hall, Skird St, 27 May from 1pm to 8pm with staff presentations at 2pm and 7pm.
Omakau Hall, 28 May from 1pm to 6pm, with a staff presentation at 4pm.
Information on the scenarios and how to give feedback can also be found online, at https://yoursay.orc.govt.nz/manuherekiascenarios, and a paper copy of the information can be requested by calling 0800 474 082.
Background on Freshwater Management Units and Rohe
ORC set out five Freshwater Management Units (FMUs) for Otago in 2019, as required by the government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2017.
An FMU is a water body or multiple water bodies that ORC deems as the appropriate scale for setting freshwater objectives and limits. This can be a river catchment, part of a catchment, or a group of catchments.
In Otago, FMUs were created based on the concept of “ki uta ki tai” (from the mountains to the sea) which recognises the movement of water through the landscape and the numerous interactions it may have on its journey.
The Clutha Mata-Au FMU was further divided into five “rohe” (areas) to ensure localised water management, one of which is the Manuherekia Rohe, which is based on the Manuherekia River catchment.
The rohe includes the towns of Lauder, Becks, Omakau, Ophir, Ida Valley, St Bathans, Oturehua and the surrounding rural areas, and includes the Manuherekia River and its tributaries.
Background on the Manuherekia Reference Group
After several rounds of values consultation with the communities of the Manuherekia Rohe between 2016 and 2018, ORC formed the Manuherekia Reference Group in 2019 as a multi-stakeholder group, chaired by an independent chairperson, to inform, develop, and assess various scenarios for public consultation.
The MRG has representatives from the Department of Conservation, Forest and Bird, Central Otago District Council, Fish and Game, the Central Otago Environmental Society, irrigators, and ORC, and is chaired by an independent chairperson who facilitates discussion about community and stakeholder interests and aspirations for the Manuherekia Rohe.
Each member of the group brings a different perspective on the Manuherekia catchment to meetings, including environmental, social, economic, and cultural perspectives.
MRG discussions, along with community meetings and online input about what people value about the Manuherekia, have helped ORC to develop the five scenarios for how the catchment could be managed in the future.