Media release

Otago features in NZ River Awards

Friday 28 November 2014

A Central Otago waterway and two Dunedin teachers have featured in the second annual New Zealand River awards which were presented in Wellington last night (Thursday).

Dunstan Creek – the largest of the Manuherikia River’s tributaries – was the most improved Otago waterway based on measurement of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) at the Beattie Road monitoring site.

High concentrations of DRP can lead to the growth of river algae and slime on riverbeds. This in turn can smother the habitat of other freshwater organisms and cause other water quality issues (high pH and low dissolved oxygen).

Dunstan Creek showed the greatest equal decline in DRP (14.5 percent p.a.) of the regional award winners – alongside Northland’s Mangere Creek.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead said this was a creditable result and a positive reflection of the great work done by local runholders to maintain high water quality and comply with the Otago Water Plan’s new rules.

“Farmers in this catchment have taken many steps to improve water quality, including fencing off waterways and managing vegetation and stock grazing, and it shows in this result,” Mr Woodhead said.

“This river is of excellent quality when rated against all the ORC parameters (E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment). It is a good example of landholder stewardship and their determination to safeguard the waterway - and it is a result they and the community can be proud of,” he said.

Dunedin teachers Andrew Innes and Simon McMillan were finalists in the NZ River Story Award for their work with Otago University scientists to produce rigorous water testing procedures for school students.

The award judges cited their work as a “great example” of young “citizen scientists” being nurtured and developed.

Mr Woodhead said Messrs Innes (formerly of John McGlashan College) and McMillan (Kaikorai College) were positive role models for environmental stewardship, and had instilled sound values in young people about the importance of protecting and preserving the environment.

They had integrated their science teaching with field work over a long period, and had done much to improve community understanding of Dunedin’s streams and Otago Harbour.

In addition to inspiring a new generation of scientists, they had harnessed student enthusiasm and completed a substantial amount of riparian planting on both public and privately-owned land adjoining the city’s waterways, Mr Woodhead said.

At last year’s inaugural awards, the Shag River in East Otago was named most improved river in NZ, while the Waikouaiti River was placed third in this category.

“These awards are showing that Otago people are actively leading the way to ensure that ORC’s goal of achieving good water quality throughout the region’s waterways is well on the way to becoming a reality,” Mr Woodhead said.

The awards are sponsored and organised by Wellington businessman and philanthropist Gareth Morgan’s Morgan Foundation.