April 2021 Newsletter

Hello and welcome to our April newsletter!

It was great to see hundreds of kids and ‘kids at heart’ flocked to the Aquavan during its visits to Gore and Invercargill, supported by the Gore Waimumu and the Waihopai Catchment Groups as well as the Hokonui Rūnanga.

The theme around making connections between river catchments and our coastline has really resonated with people, with plenty of school kids coming back to public sessions to share the fun with family members.

Making those vital connections between urban and rural areas through an understanding of how catchments work is a wonderful light-bulb moment for kids, and often parents too.

As you will know, Thriving Southland is supporting Catchment Groups to achieve their goals -there’s definitely lots of energy out there, with Groups keeping our catchment coordinators busy. 

Catchment Group events are being well attended, with people from all walks of life coming along. Projects of various sizes are happening or taking shape, as people strive to increase their understanding around land and water dynamics, and to reinforce the importance of supporting one another in communities.

It was great to get Group leaders together this month for our Catchment Group Forum, where people got to learn about what’s happening with other Catchment Groups’ projects and events, and guest speaker Robyn Dynes from AgResearch shared her thoughts on what's been happening in the Climate change space.

Our Stakeholder Forum in early March was also well attended and we received great feedback around Thriving Southland’s ability to connect across organisations supporting farmers, which is really pleasing.

We’ll continue to listen to the voices of Catchment Groups to ensure Thriving Southland is being responsive to the needs of our southern communities.

And finally, a shout out to the winner of our survey promotion; Marion Breach from Otautau won the $100 grocery voucher for completing the survey. Congratulations Marion!

Catchment Group Profile

Waihopai Catchment Group

When was the Group started?
About two years ago.

Roughly how many members do you have?
Around about 15 core members with lots of other people in the area coming along to various events.

How often do you meet, and where?
Meetings are held about every three months, depending on what’s happening, at the Woodlands Tavern.

What projects/events is the Group working on?
We’ve had a busy time in March with a stream health assessment get together and the awesome visit from the Aquavan team. We’re also working on a project to compare catchment data from 10 years ago, to data being recorded now, to work out some trends.

What's the best way for people to contact you?
Waihopai Catchment Group Convenor Bob Schmidt on 021 488 409 or email: 

More than 700 kids flock to Aquavan during Southland visits

Two fun-filled weeks of Aquavan action saw more than 700 Southland kids in Gore and Invercargill get to the chance to check out the hands-on marine critter experience.

The Aquavan is a specially designed van created by the University of Otago New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, with chilled recirculating seawater tanks to transport marine critters to schools and communities around the country.

Thriving Southland Catchment Coordinator Sarah Thorne says it’s a really unique and fun learning experience teaching Year 5 to 8 students about how waterways are all connected.  

“So, when we look after our Rural and Urban catchments and rivers, this also helps look after our estuaries and coastal areas too.”   

 As well as running seven days of education programmes, two community events in Gore and Invercargill were also really well attended, Sarah says.

“Thousands of Southlanders had a chance to see, touch and learn about our marine critters, walk through the Waihopai Catchment and identify the native plants and play the giant Environment Southland water quality Tuna and Drains game.

”They also had the opportunity to learn what Sunrise Rotary, Invercargill City Council, the New River Estuary Forum, Department of Conservation and Thriving Southland are all doing to help look after our Southland waterways, Sarah says.

Many thanks to the Gore-Waimumu and Waihopai Catchment Groups for sourcing funding through Thriving Southland to bring this amazing educational resource to Southland, and to all the other organisations involved in helping plan and organise the visits.

Special thanks to the amazing work of all the SIT student volunteers and Hokonui Runanga Educator Rodney Trainor.

The Aquavan will be returning to visit students from St Peter’s College in Gore and be part of Environment Southland’s Omaui Envirohui in April, and will be visiting Central Southland schools for another week in May or June, Sarah says.

What's been happening

Makarewa Headwaters Catchment Group propagating native seeds field trip

Makarewa Headwater Catchment Group organised an amazing opportunity in late February to learn the methods of successfully propagating native seed from local sources. As well as see what native shelterbelts can look like in a short period with well managed establishment practices.  

Malcolm and Margaret McKenzie were kind enough to open their Otapiri property, and during the afternoon, Malcolm shared his extensive knowledge with the group. Malcolm’s knowledge extends well beyond farming; from local history to native seed propagation and planting, bird knowledge, wetland protection and his passion for apple trees. Those who attended were treated to lessons in practical seed collection and potting techniques, planting and raising seedlings, and witnessing some of the established plantings across the McKenzie property. Thank you to Jesse Bythell of the QEII Trust for her time and expertise on the day, and of course to the McKenzies for their fantastic hospitality. All who attended left feeling very inspired.

Thriving Southland Stakeholder breakfast update sparks ideas sharing

We had a great turnout for our stakeholders’ breakfast at Ascot Park Hotel in early March. It was a wonderful opportunity to update everyone on the work Thriving Southland has been doing, and the projects underway by local Catchment Groups. It also provided the perfect setting for lots of conversations and sharing of ideas to see how we can make the most of working together.

Stream health assessment skills passed on

A great turnout, great company and great knowledge sharing were the themes of the day as members of the Waihopai Catchment Group descended on Eoin McKenzie’s farm to learn some stream health assessment skills on 10 March.  

Participants undertook a one page Rapid Habitat Assessment, and the NZ Landcare Trust steam health assessment sheet. Then got in the stream and looked for macroinvertebrates.  Eoin, much to the delight of the whole group, found a baby koura. People went home armed with some info and skills to look at their streams and see what they can find.  The Catchment Group are going to collate this info and work out what is happening with water quality and stream health in their catchment.  Many thanks to the two Alex's from Environment Southland for helping us with clarity tubes, PH kits and all the questions.

Surfing for Farmers gets phenomenal response in Southland

Surfing for Farmers events have been running since December, with hundreds of farmers and others involved in the agricultural sector taking up the offer to give it a go at Riverton or Colac Bay. Check out what a couple of them had to say about the new programme here.

ACE Stream Walk

A fantastic few hours were spent by several farmers looking at stream health on the Milton’s Farm, run by Environment Southland Land Sustainability Officers, Alex Tibshraeny, Alex Loimaranta and Keith Finlayson. The group learnt about Rapid Habitat Assessment (RHA), taking turns using the kit and collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates, including mayflies, caddisflies, small/juvenile fish. 

Upcoming Events


Tuesday 13th April 6.00pm, Salvation Army, Winton 

Wednesday 14th April 11.00am, Waimumu Fieldays Office, Gore 

Join us for a workshop to create a communications strategy and learn how to increase engagement in your Catchment Group. The session will be run by Thriving Southland’s very own Communications Manager, Lee Cowan. Lee is a strategic communications and crisis communications expert with over 20 years’ experience providing strategic input, innovative solutions and marketing and communications advice. She is also a passionate presenter on public perception, community engagement, story-telling and communications.  

Register to get your place now.

Wednesday 14 April 
AB Lime Nursery, Bend Road 

Join the Mid Oreti Catchment Group at the AB Lime Nursery for some practical workshops. We will cover seed collection, processing, sowing and potting. Plus there will be info on right plant, right place, right purpose and some species ID. BBQ and refreshments will follow. More information is available of the Mid Oreti Catchment Group Facebook page here.   


Thursday 15 April 
Mid Aparima, Wayne and Debbie Little’s place 

Tuesday 20 April
Pourakino, Omutu Ermedale Cross Roads 

6pm, Wednesday 21 April 
Southland Community Nursery, 185 Grant Road, Otatara 

Join us for a workshop to learn how to collect seeds and to grow our own native plants. Bring a friend as all are welcome and there will be nibbles provided.

Space is limited, so please RSVP to  

11 June, Otautau Sports Centre  
Check out the Thriving Southland website for more info and to register your attendance.  

Nga mihi

Richard Kyte (Thriving Southland Project Lead) and the Thriving Southland Team


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