We are a catchment group with a huge passion for our local community, especially our younger generations. We want to educate and work as a community to come up with practical solutions to improve our waterways for our future generations. Our events and projects often have a strong water quality, education and community focus to them.
Our first step was to understand our water quality. So in February 2020 we asked Roger Hodson, Senior Scientist - Surface Water Quality at Environment Southland, to come and talk to us about the health of our local waterways. The Waihopai Catchment was the site of a special study by Environment Southland from 2005 to 2015 called Living Streams, and water quality and what could be done to look after it, was studied across our whole catchment for 10 years. This started lots of good initiatives that are now used by Environment Southland across Southland.
We then followed this up with a Mid-Winter Calving & Lambing get-together in September, where the community could leave their gumboots at the door and be with friends and neighbours at a very busy time of year. They also have a chance to meet their local Catchment Group members, and chatted about ideas for projects and events in the Waihopai catchment over a bite to eat and a drink.
Looking after our waterways for our future generations is really important to us, and we are very lucky to have Woodlands School and their Outdoor Learning Area at the heart of our community. In December we visited Woodlands School Year 4 to 8 students, and they showed and talked to us about all the work they have been doing at their amazing Outdoor Learning Area, along with their future ideas and plans.
We then headed to Eoin McKenzie’s farm in March 2021 to learn some new skills and different ways to monitor the health of our streams. We used a one page visual assessment sheet called a Rapid Habitat Assessment, and then got in the stream and looked at the macroinvertebrates (stream bugs) that live there using kitchen sieves, plastic spoons and white ice cream tubs. People went home armed with some new information and skills to look at their streams and see what they can find.
We headed back to Woodlands School in March, and Sarah and Bob ran sessions with the top two classes on what a catchment is, what Catchment Groups do, and what is special about their catchment local Catchment Group. The kids built a catchment on the floor using fabric, plants and plastic toys, and also learnt about how riparian planting works, and identified some common native plants.
We worked alongside the Gore-Waimumu Catchment Group to bring the University of Otago New Zealand Marine Studies Centre Aquavan back to Southland in March 2021, to run the Discovering our Catchment and Coastal Connections Education programme. The Aquavan is specially designed to transport live marine critters and touch pools to schools and communities, to create awareness and understanding of the connectivity between river health and the coastal environment. 700 Year 5 to Year 8 students from Gore and Invercargill attended the fun 2 hour education sessions, with two successful community events being run as well.
In July we ran a great on farm recycling field day covering baleage wrap, dairy shed, household and community recycling options. All things recycling were discussed, and many ideas were shared. We got to see the Plasback recycling system in action in the paddock, and hear from local reps about recycling options and systems we could become involved with. A special part of the event was having Charlotte Burns (10 years old from Woodlands Full Primary School) open and close the field day in Te Reo supported by her Principal.
The group (along with the other Southland Catchment Groups) took part in a nationwide eDNA (environmental DNA) water quality monitoring programme, and chose Woodlands School Outdoor Learning Area as their site. This will provide valuable information on the plants and animals found in and around New Zealand’s waterways.