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Waihopai Catchment Group

Waihopai Catchment Group covers a large rural area in eastern central Southland (Oreti Freshwater Management Unit) which includes the rural communities of Myross Bush, Kennington, Woodlands, Rimu, Dacre, Spurhead and Morton Mains, down to the Invercargill City boundary. 


Bob Schmidt



Group coordinator

Sarah Thorne

Number of members in the CG

Core Group of 10 key members, with wider farming and community members that attend events and keep in the loop with what the group is up too.  The focus of the group is currently around Woodlands, and we hope to expand this across our area over the next few years. 

Date the Catchment Group started

October 2019

Types of people in the group

Farmers, rural professionals, community, students, industry members and the local school. Everyone is welcome!

The group is all about everyone doing their bit to look after and improve our water quality.  We are always looking for new people, ideas and information to try out to meet community, government and scientific recommendations to improve our waterways.

Projects completed

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.

Projects underway

1. The group are very keen to understand how their community and actions are impacting their local water quality and stream health. 

  • They are currently trialling a DairyNZ on farm water quality kit that is currently in development
  • They would also like to bring together and analyse the stream health monitoring information taken by locals using their new skills and training from March, and
  • They are also looking at ways to get the Living Streams data fully analysed, set up a current catchment wide monitoring programme, and continue this community monitoring into the future.

2. They will continue to support Woodlands Primary School and their Outdoor Learning Area. 

Projects planned

Ideas for possible future project areas include:

1. Learning about our stream health:

  • Summary of water quality in Catchment (to understand where we are at)
  • Work out where to monitor (to track the results of what we are doing)
  • Develop our stream health monitoring skills - Rapid Habitat Assessment, macroinvertebrates (stream bugs) or Stream Health Monitoring Assessment Kit – SHMAK
  • Understand the results
  • Share the results

2. Work with local schools and students (primary, secondary and tertiary)

3. Start a fish on drains project around Woodlands to increase understanding of what happens when water (and whatever else is with it) goes into our drain systems and into our freshwater and coastal environment

4. Look into local recycling options: farm and household

5. Organise farm visits and field days on useful topics, including a session with Environment Southland - new consent process (once decided)

6. Work with B+LNZ to run one of their Farm Environment Management Plan workshops in our area

7. Look at ways to let people know about our Catchment Group; what we do, and how they can become involved. 

Hosted events / meetings

We meet every few months at the family/community room at the Woodlands Tavern or at Woodlands School when we need to have a meeting.  Members also represent the group at the twice yearly Southland Catchment Group Forum meetings, as well as Catchment Group training opportunities, and Oreti Catchment Group Leaders Get Togethers.  We use the Woodlands Community Facebook Group to advertise our events and share information on opportunities and projects: 

  1. Learnt about the health of our local waterways from Environment Southland’s Senior Scientist - Surface Water Quality Roger Hodson – February 2020
  2. Mid-Winter Calving & Lambing get-together – 17 September 2020
  3. Waihopai Stream Health & Water Quality Monitoring Skills Session – 10 March 2021
  4. Woodlands School classroom session on their catchment and local Catchment Group – 31 March 2021
  5. On Farm Recycling Field Day – 13 July 2021

More about us

We are a young 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.


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