Pourakino Catchment Group

July 2017

A group of Southland farmers and their community with a focus on water care.

The Pourakino Catchment Group was formed in 2014 by David Diprose and a group of like-minded farmers. In 2016 they won a major prize at the Southland Community Environment Awards, and the group has been credited as being invaluable in helping to achieve catchment limits. They work alongside David Moate, a Land Sustainability Officer at Environment Southland. There are currently 48 farmers in the catchment, and they are getting close to 40 members belonging to the group. 

The Group was formed after the release of a “damning” report about the build-up of sediment in the Riverton Estuary. David says people were starting to blame the dairying in the valley for the increased sediment but he couldn’t accept that, because there weren’t huge numbers of dairying operations in the area. David wanted to unite the farmers in the catchment and have a meaningful voice. 

David operates two farms, one in the Pourakino catchment and one at Wyndham where he has set up the Three Rivers Catchment Group. This group’s aim is to take a proactive collaborative approach for economically and environmentally sustainable farming in the Pourakino and Omutu Stream Catchments. The group is focused on four key areas: 

  • Minimising sediment runoff
  • Improving waterway management
  • Improving nutrient management, and
  • Improving the public perception of agriculture 

In the longer term, the group aims to ensure that local farmers are as well informed as possible and able to make the best management decisions based on good data. Soil testing, water testing, increased knowledge of nutrient budgets, and greater understanding of Overseer are all on the “to-do” list. 

David believes that one of the strengths of the group is that they have a good relationship with the council. “We have David Moate (Land Sustainability Officer at Environment Southland) who we are able to talk to. Between all parties we have been able to get understanding, although we are not always in agreement.” he says. 

Most of the farmers in the group have done a farm focus plan. The group is very much a pilot for the council. 

“I have travelled overseas and after living near the Thames River (in the UK) I realised how unique our situation is here. We shouldn’t let our waterways deteriorate. I have always been drawn to rivers, they are the lifeblood of a community or town. We have to look after them, we have to treasure them more than the land. They are not a resource which is infinite. Water is a shared resource and if you are using it, then it should be done with respect for the resource.” 

The Pourakino catchment is not highly modified. David explains it only came out of bush in the last 20 to 25 years with around 130 sawmills operating in the valley at its peak. 

David says, “Everyone has been impacted by our group. Our vision is to engage the community and farmers together to create an environment we are all proud of. I want farming to be sustainable in its true sense and to work in harmony with the environment. We kicked off in 2014, and probably had five or six public meetings on things like nutrient management on farm, fertiliser placement, wintering practices, farm environment plans, identifying areas of critical sources which are danger areas. It’s a combination of looking at water quality and the values we are starting to see, and creating a collective voice and pride in what we do. For example, farmers are creating set-asides beside waterways, some are 10m wide, way better than the 3m the council asked for. 

Euan Matheson is another farmer in the catchment group. His dairy farm is located not far from the Riverton estuary. Euan has four different land and soil types on his converted dairy operation, including peatland soils, which have to be carefully managed for winter grazing. 

Euan has instigated a number of steps to minimise his environmental impact. He has fenced off waterways, done a WOF on his effluent system, and has planted around critical sources on the farm. He works with the dairy leaders advisory group of DairyNZ. 

Euan has also installed solar panels on his dairy shed for further savings and energy efficiencies. 

A small distance away is Geordie Eade’s sheep and beef property, which is on both sides of the road. Geordie employs bigger breaks for wintering. 

Sediment management is the main water quality challenge for the Pourakino catchment.

Farmers are mitigating the sediment problem by changing their winter management and constructing sediment traps. 

David Moate is the Land Sustainability Officer at Environment Southland. He says the Pourakino Catchment Group is invaluable, and has set up a great dialogue with Environment Southland. Pourakino is inspiring other groups to form, and is a really important part of achieving catchment limits. David says, “Environment Southland really values the relationship with the group, and the communication we have with the farmers.” 

David Diprose says when farmers don’t feel threatened they will go way beyond what they have been asked to do. “Rather than telling people what to do, it is about seeking out information on our own. We want trusting, respectful relationships with each other. We just want to make our wetlands a better place to live by and stop the deterioration of our waterways and land.”