Rai Valley Farmers Catchment Group

September 2015

Farmers restoring water quality in the Rai Valley catchment

In 2000 the Rai Valley community was suprised to learn of the effect farming was having on water quality.

Participants in the Marlborough Sounds based Outward Bound programmes were being affected by skin conditions when they swam and kayaked in local waterways. Council monitoring revealed E.coli bacteria exceeded contact bathing standards.

Rai farmers contend with a high annual rainfall of about 2m that can saturate paddocks, with run-off ending up in the river. Council also identified stream crossings for cattle as a likely culprit in E coli ending up in the rivers.

Improvements such as culverts and bridges were made several years ago to meet Fonterra’s Clean Streams Accord (CSA). The Marlborough District Council helped the process with waivers of resource consents.

Barbara Stuart has been working with farmers in the Rai catchment and behind the scenes to help coordinate farmer efforts to improve the water quality issues in their area.

She says the locals are proud of the Rai Valley and the river and are hurt when people point the finger at them.

Barbara says provided they have the right management systems, farmers can run environmentally sound farms. She says the project is about empowering landowners with the knowledge so that they can manage the land better.

Kenny Kyle is a local dairy farmer milking 430 cows on a 140 ha property near Havelock. Kenny is dedicated to helping farmers like himself do the right thing by assisting them with the project in a practical way. He says farmers are the best influencers of other farmers.

He got involved in the Rai project and decided to do something about supplying plants cheaply to other landowners in the catchment.

The Kyles wanted to set up a volunteer nursery so they could grow plants cheaply plus they plan to make it easy for busy farmers to plant streams. Supported by the NZ Landcare Trust, the Kyles along with other farmers have teamed up with Outward Bound, NZ Fish & Game Council, Department of Conservation, and local volunteers to make this happen.

The nursery has produced thousands of seedlings at cost; to be planted on farm streams in autumn and spring 2015.  Students from Outward Bound who do a community service day as part of their courses, help with potting up seedlings. Future courses will also be available to help with planting and weeding on farms.

The purpose of this community effort is improving water. Fonterra’s conditions of supply have made fencing dairy cows out of waterways mandatory for all their suppliers, however planting streams is a personal option.

Research predicts buffering streams will reduce farm run-off from entering the Rai and Pelorus rivers and keep them clean.

Andy Reed is a sharemilker on a Kaiuma Bay farm that has a waterway feeding into the Pelorus River.

The property has undertaken culvert and bridging work to comply with the farm plan and the requirements being rolled out under the accord.

The farm has a small tributary of the Pelorus which is an important local spawning stream for trout. Fish and Game volunteers have taken an interest in the planting programme – getting plants from the Kyle nursery to plant out on the property. The planting has the potential to positively improve water quality in the lower Pelorus River for the trout fishery in the long term.

Currently this fishery suffers from high summer water temperatures, so improvements in tributary shading may help partially address this issue, as well as improving the juvenile salmonid rearing habitat within some tributaries.