Working in partnership with Iwi, the community and key agencies in the region, Nelson City Council has embarked on a four year restoration project for the Maitai River, called Project Maitai/Mahitahi. The goal is to improve the health of the Maitai River and its tributaries; so that we can swim safely, collect kai and value this taonga (treasure) as an integral part of Nelson’s physical and cultural landscape.
The Maitai River has many important roles. It provides the city’s drinking water and acts as a storm water and flood channel. It is the tupuna awa (ancestral river) for the Iwi of Whakatu and is important to all the Iwi of Te Tau Ihu. It is also a key recreational asset, and part of Nelson’s cultural landscape. There is some tension between these roles which makes the collaborative nature of this project especially important.
At only 18km long, the Maitai River can be divided into three sections each with a different set of impacts: the municipal water supply reservoir in the upper catchment; widespread forestry and recreational activity in the mid catchment; urban activity in the lower catchment where the river runs right through the city and finishes in the sensitive receiving waters of the tidal Nelson Haven. This makes the Maitai River a useful case study to look at a wide range of water quality impacts and possible interventions in a small area.
The project itself provides a good example of how the community can actively be involved in a Council based project from decision making to implementation, and illustrates the importance of internal cross-Council collaboration to address water quality issues.
The structure of the Project Maitai/Mahitahi programme, the ways in which stakeholders and community are involved, and the successes and lessons learnt to date for both water quality outcomes and project processes will be discussed.